STOP-SMOKING services in the district can no longer afford to ignore e-cigarettes as a quitting tool, a senior councillor has said.

Countless lives would be saved if Bradford's public health team encouraged smokers to switch to vaping, Conservative group leader Councillor Simon Cooke believes.

He said: "It really is a health benefit. The number of lives that would be saved if every smoker switched to e-cigarettes would be enormous."

Public health bodies have been reluctant to advocate e-cigarettes, but Cllr Cooke, a member of the district's Health and Wellbeing Board, said the health risks associated with them were minimal, compared to traditional tobacco.

And he said as a quitting tool, they were far more appealing to smokers than nicotine patches or gum.

Cllr Cooke said he was writing to the Director of Public Health, Anita Parkin, asking her to follow the lead of other stop-smoking services and NHS trusts which have become "e-cig friendly".

This includes NHS stop-smoking services in the North-East, which work alongside the stop-smoking campaign Fresh North East, who this month announced they would be giving tailored advice to e-cigarette users to help them quit smoking - even though they couldn't yet provide people with the e-cigarettes themselves.

Cllr Cooke said: "We now need to start looking at whether or not we should be a little bit more supportive of people making the switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes.

"They do what no other smoking cessation product does - and I speak as an ex-smoker - in that they mimic the act of smoking. It makes them far more appealing to someone who's trying to quit.

"I used patches when I stopped smoking. They were horrible. If electronic cigarettes had been around then, almost certainly I would have used them."

Cllr Cooke said all the evidence suggested e-cigarettes posed very little risk to others through passive smoking.

He said: "The only real concern with vaping is the impact it has on a developing brain in younger people."

But Bradford's Public Health department has responded by saying e-cigarettes were "unlicensed and unregulated" and the NHS did not recommend them as a stop-smoking aid.

A spokesman said: "E-cigarettes are not currently recognised as a smoking cessation aid in the UK by health providers, including the NHS, there being no peer reviewed evidence that they are a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy.

"Nor is there is any medical evidence to demonstrate that they are completely safe to use as many products also contain a number of additional ingredients.

"Although the Bradford smoking cessation service would prefer individuals to stop smoking with alternative, evidence-based solutions, if their choice was to quit using an e-cigarette they would be supported in their attempt as there are health benefits of switching from smoking cigarettes."