Smoking was once seen as a way to stay slim but experts believing that e-cigarettes may also help users to control their weight.
Tobacco smoking can prevent weight gain due to the effect of nicotine on the brain and the metabolism, which can cause concern among quitters who do not want to gain weight.
A review of existing evidence, published today in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, suggests that vaping could help people to manage their weight if trying to quit smoking.
Scots researchers also believe that e-liquids with food flavourings may replicate some of the sensations of eating, coupled with the vapour in e-cigarettes and the hand to mouth actions of vaping.
Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at Stirling University, is among the experts exploring whether vaping with or without nicotine could help people ignore cravings for unhealthy foods.
Professor Bauld said: “Weight gain prevents some smokers from quitting so we need to explore alternative ways of helping these individuals control their weight, while removing the risks of tobacco use.
“The benefits of e-cigarettes for smokers have been shown to far outweigh the harms, as vaping carries around 5 per cent of the risk of smoking.”
The research does not suggest e-cigarettes should be promoted to people who do not vape or smoke, only for overweight people who already do or those looking to quit.
Prof Bauld added: “Our health care systems are currently struggling to cope with caring for people with chronic conditions caused by obesity and smoking. Even controversial approaches that could contribute to current efforts to address this are worth investigating.”
E-cigarette use continues to trigger controversy as there may be some risks from long-term use, such as harm from the chemicals within.
However top doctors moved to reassure the public that the devices are safe earlier this year, as the Royal College of Physicians published a major report quashing concerns that the devices act as a gateway to smoking.
Levels of vaping rose to 7 per cent last year compared to 5 per cent in 2014, with the devices appealing most to young adults, according to the most recent Scottish Health Survey.
Lead author Professor Marewa Glover, of Massey University, in New Zealand, said: “Obesity is set to overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of disease and early death in several countries.
“If there is a chance that flavoured vaping could help even a small proportion of people reduce the diabetes, cardiovascular and cancer risks associated with excess weight, the population health gains would be significant.”