E-cigarettes should be given out on prescription for those who are trying to quit smoking, Public Health England has said.
It wants the NHS to prescribe them because of their success in recent years in helping people to stop using cigarettes.
In an independent review PHE said 20,000 people a year are quitting with the help of e-cigarettes.
It also wants hospitals to be able to sell e-cigarettes, and have areas where people can vape.
The number of people using e-cigarettes has ‘plateaued’ and now stands at just under three million people in the UK, according to the review, which was conducted by experts from King’s College London and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, the University of Stirling and Cancer Research UK.
One reason behind the stall in uptake could be misconceptions about the levels of harm linked to the devices.
Researchers found that thousands of smokers ‘incorrectly’ believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking and two in five smokers had not even tried an e-cigarette.
In a linked editorial, published in The Lancet, experts from PHE said: ‘Although not without risk, the overall risk of harm is estimated at less than five per cent of that from smoking tobacco; the risk of cancer has been calculated to be less than one per cent.’