e-cig photoA new study suggests e-cigarettes may significantly reduce tobacco cravings in smokers.

The small study, which included 48 smokers who were not trying to quit, indicates e-cigarettes may help smokers reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, or help them stop altogether, the researchers say.

The investigators, from the University of Leuven in Belgium, divided the smokers into three groups. Two of the groups were allowed to use e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes for the first two months. The third group was only allowed to smoke tobacco cigarettes for the first two months, but was permitted to use e-cigarettes after that, according to Time. Participants were monitored through a website where they logged their use of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.

After eight months, 21 percent of participants had stopped smoking tobacco entirely, and an additional 23 percent reported reducing the number of tobacco cigarettes they smoked by half. Across all three groups, participants reduced the number of tobacco cigarettes smoked daily by 60 percent.

"All the groups showed similar results after we introduced the e-cigs," lead researcher Frank Baeyens said in a news release. "With guidance on practical use, the nicotine e-cig offers many smokers a successful alternative for smoking less – or even quitting altogether. E-cig users get the experience of smoking a cigarette and inhale nicotine vapor, but do not suffer the damaging effects of a tobacco cigarette."

The findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

A study published earlier this year concluded people who use regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes are no more likely to quit smoking after a year, compared with smokers who don't use the devices.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, studied 949 smokers, 88 of whom also used e-cigarettes. Those who used e-cigarettes didn't smoke fewer regular cigarettes after one year, compared with those not using the devices, the researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.