GP’s will begin prescribing electronic cigarettes to help smokers quit after it was revealed the devices are 95% safer than tobacco – but the Government didn’t want the public to know just yet.

The Government believes e-cigarettes, which are currently enjoying a surge in popularity, are considered a highly effective tool to help smokers quit.

According to reports, Tories wanted to keep the information hidden from the public as they feared GP’s would be bombarded with requests for the electronic cigarettes.

A Whitehall source said: “We didn’t want to make a song and dance about it because GP’s would be overrun by people demanding it. But this is something we’ve been pushing for.”

How and when the Government and NHS were planning to break the news is unclear, but the first batch of e-cigs should be available soon.

It is estimated each kit will cost the NHS £20, plus a further £10 weekly for each patient’s cartridges. This should be a cheaper in the long-term than current methods to help people quit, freeing up more of the health budget.

Research shows 1.4 million people use E-cigs to help them cut down. There are at least 2.6 million users in the UK, almost half of which are ex-smokers.

Labour MP Steve McCabe is responsible for unearthing the information after grilling Public Health Minister Jane Ellison.

The news has been well received. Action to Smoking and Health believe other electronic cigarette manufacturers and importers should be encouraged to apply for their licences.

Professor Kevin Fenton of Public Health England added: “We want to see a choice of safe and effective ­replacements for smoking that smokers want to use.”

It was previously reported that the NHS were considering using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid in August.