A LEADING doctor believes e-cigarettes should now be considered as a “good tool” to help people stop smoking following a ground-breaking report into the subject.

Dr Geoffrey Jolliffe, GP lead for Furness, has welcomed a report commissioned by Public Health England which found that e-cigs are 20 times safer than conventional cigarettes.

He believes electronic cigarettes, also know as vaporisers, could be recommended to help people quit smoking as they can save lives and also save the NHS billions of pounds in treating associated diseases.

Rates of heart disease and cancer are all higher in Furness compared with the national average so the use of e-cigs could be a key solution to relieve the problem in the area, Dr Jollliffe explains.

“It’s a massive issue in Barrow. The diseases caused by smoking are all high in the Furness area so stopping smoking is the number one thing to help. We should see e-cigarettes as an alternative. They should be another good tool in our approach to smoking.”

It is estimated that around 2.6 million people use electronic cigarettes in the UK.

E-cigs work by vaporising liquid nicotine and work without burning tobacco leaves.

Up until now doctors have been reluctant to recommend e-cigarettes, however Dr Jolliffe, who works at Risedale Surgery in Barrow, said the report is very much welcome.

He said: “I think the report is welcome because no-one knew for sure if they were safe. The official position was that they might be dangerous.

“A lot of GPs on the ground could see the benefits that they were bringing as suddenly some patients could stop smoking. The patients were reporting they were very successful.

“Now the evidence is there to explain how much safer they are.”

One of the major concerns around endorsing e-cigs previously surrounded fears that they might act as a ‘gateway’ and encourage people, including children, to take up the habit and smoke conventional cigarettes.

However, the report, titled E-cigarettes: An Evidence Update, found no evidence to support this. It instead found evidence that e-cigs can encourage quitting and cigarette consumption reduction.

Asked whether e-cigs should be prescribed on the NHS, Dr Jollife urged caution.

He said: “It’s a different issue. There’s a real cost issue with them. It’s not a decision for me or doctors to make.

“If people ask for that and if we spend on e-cigarettes then a lot of money may be lost on other services.”