Step aside nicotine gum and patches – e-cigarettes are now the most popular method for smokers to quit, according to a stunning study.

According to University College London academics, over one million smokers tried vaping to kick their habits last year, dwarfing the 26% of smokers who tried using licensed nicotine products.

Robert West, professor of health psychology at UCL, estimated that e-cigarettes helped around 20,000 smokers quit each year.

“E-cigarettes have overtaken more traditional methods as the most widely used support for smokers wanting to quit.”

“Their impact on public health at present comes from attracting people who would otherwise have tried to stop without any useful form of support.”

Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, accepted that e-cigarettes are less harmful than normal cigarettes, but wants more research into the long-term effects of vaping.

“This unique study shines a light on just how popular e-cigarettes have become as an aid for smokers trying to quit and we need to listen to what is helping people the most on their path to a smoke free life.”

It has previously been found that e-cigarettes are helping thousands quit, and that the devices are more effective than patches or gum.