STOP smoking services face a new era of challenges due to the rise of the electronic cigarette, health chiefs have warned.

Smoking cessation services are hailed as a success in Bolton, with thousands of people turning to them for help every year.

More than 4,000 quitters in Bolton went to the stop-smoking service at Crompton Health Centre in 2012/13 alone, with an estimated 14,000 people using the service since it was launched 14 years ago.

But smoking cessation experts say their service and smokers say the increase in popularity of e-cigarettes is throwing up new challenges for the service.

They warn using the stop smoking “aid” is “just another way of smoking” that the side-effects are not yet known.

Adrian Butterworth, smoking cessation manager at the Crompton Health Centre, said: “Our services have been described as ‘jewell in the NHS’ crown and we couldn’t be more proud of that achievement.

“We started 14 years ago and we have really adapted our service to suit people, such as having personal appointments rather than just group sessions, and having sessions in the evenings and at weekends.

“In terms of what the future holds for our service, one of our main areas of concern are e-cigarettes. They are a big problem for us because they are not regulated and so little is known about the long-term effects of people smoking them.

“We have seen a slight down-turn in people using our service in the past year and we think it is down to e-cigarettes. Smokers think they quitting by using one but in fact they are not. It’s just another way of smoking.

“We know that nicotine is deadly poison but we don’t know the long-term effect of vapourising it and breathing it in.”

Stop-smoking services became the responsibility of local councils under the shake-up of the NHS earlier this year.

For more information about Bolton’s Stop-Smoking Service, call 01204 462345 or text 07918690814.