E-cigarettes should be used more actively to help smokers quit, a study has suggested.

And there is an nervousness about the use of e-cigarettes in stop-smoking services, which can be a barrier to people finding support.

The researchers argue that stop-smoking services which are e-cigarette friendly should advertise this more openly.

They suggest the greater use of e-cigarettes has the potential to make a considerable impact in helping people give up smoking.

England has led the way internationally by proposing that stop-smoking services become “e-cigarette friendly” but many services fail to advertise this, and consequently smokers may miss out on support.

The research shows strong leadership from organisations such as Public Health England has made a difference in changing attitudes.

Many stop-smoking services are becoming more e-cigarette friendly, the study found (Peter Byrne/PA)

But concerns among some working in public health services and local councils about the use of e-cigarettes is preventing the widespread establishment of stop-smoking services which support vapers.

Academics at Exeter and Melbourne universities interviewed staff from eight different stop smoking services in the south-west of England.

They found many services are becoming more e-cigarette friendly, welcoming e-cigarette users into their service, although they often fail to advertise this.

Dr Hannah Farrimond, from the University of Exeter, said: “There are real opportunities for stop-smoking services to use e-cigarettes more actively to help people give up smoking, but for this to happen policies around the country need to be consistent, and people need to share best practice and know what others are doing.

“This is particularly important given cuts to the council budget which have significantly reduced services.”

Some schemes offered free e-cigarettes to people in disadvantaged groups (Tim Ireland/PA)

The experts found that although some stop-smoking services labelled themselves “e-cigarette friendly”, there was no consensus over what this should entail.

Some were actively incorporating e-cigarettes, working with local vape shops, and in the case of one service, offering e-cigarettes through a voucher scheme to disadvantaged groups.

But some of the 25 staff interviewed were worried about using e-cigarettes because they felt they were addictive and not medically licensed.

MPs, Public Health England and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training have all suggested vaping may have a role to play in stop-smoking services.

Dr Farrimond added: “It is arguable that for smoking cessation work to succeed, it is going to have to move beyond specialist clinics which few smokers attend, and engage with vulnerable populations in their communities.

“Initiatives to support smoking cessation could occur in psychiatric units, community mental health settings, in addiction clinics, in community centres and smoke-free hospitals.

“E-cigarettes have the potential to allow stop smoking services to do things differently for marginalised and harder to treat smokers.”

The study, Developing E-cigarette friendly smoking cessation services in England: staff perspectives, is published in the journal Harm Reduction. It was funded by Cancer Research UK.