E-cigarettes should be offered to patients trying to give up smoking, doctors have said.
A report published by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) stated that "in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK".
As such, doctors should encourage their patients to use e-cigarettes to prevent them from relapsing into smoking.
The report also suggests that switching to e-cigarettes could save "millions" of lives. Around 122,000 people die in the UK every year from smoking – equivalent to more than one in six of all deaths.
"The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits," said John Britton, chair of the RCP's tobacco advisory group, in a statement.
"This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK."
"Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever."
E-cigarettes have already been licensed for use to help quit smoking and could be prescribed on the NHS. The move was an attempt to "ensure licensed nicotine products such as e-cigaretes meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy to help reduce the harms from smoking," according to a report from Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency published earlier this year.
A Public Health England study claimed that e-cigarettes were "95 per cent less harmful than tobacco", but evidence was described as "weak" by medical journal The Lancet. A study published in early 2016 in the Journal of Oral Oncology found that vapour from e-cigarettes may damage DNA or even kill human cells.