A FORMER smoker has shared her e-cigarette success story after kicking the 25-year habit.

From the age of 16, Karen Lee, from Bury, smoked 15 cigarettes a day.

She said she was so ashamed, she would sneak downstairs in the early hours to stop her family from knowing she was desperate for a smoke.

The 44-year-old had tried nicotine patches, gum, and going 'cold turkey'.

Ms Lee said: "I had reached the point where I thought I would never be able to stop smoking.

"I had tried so many times and then started once again.

"My teenage daughter, Zoe, was convinced I would never be able to do it as she had seen me try and fail on so many occasions."

In another attempt to break the habit, Ms Lee suggested that she and a colleague, who she shared cigarette breaks with, tried vaping instead of smoking.

In October 2016, the mum-of-two was finally able to quit. She vaped for six weeks and then gave up vaping too.

Ms Lee, who works as a civil servant in Manchester, said: "I started using an e-cigarette to help me stop smoking and I liked being able to choose the nicotine level. For me, e-cigarettes felt like an easier replacement for my habit.

"It is great to be able to wake up without a hacking cough and to be able to breathe normally again and actually taste food after so many years of not being able to."

Now Ms Lee, who lives near Holy Cross College in Bury, is supporting Cancer Research UK's campaign to raise awareness among smokers of the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared to smoking.

E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, which is proven to cause cancer, and while they do contain nicotine, which is addictive, nicotine is not responsible for the major health harms from smoking.

The campaign, which is running in Greater Manchester from mid-January, will feature adverts on billboards, bus stops, phone kiosks, in washrooms and on social media.

In Bury, around one in five adults smoke, and Cancer Research says quitting is the single most important thing they can do to cut their risk of cancer.

Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK prevention champion and academic researcher, said: "Tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer, so the more we can do to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco-containing cigarettes, the more cancers we can prevent.

"Evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, so they are a worthwhile option for smokers struggling to quit."

Around 1,700 people die from lung cancer in Greater Manchester every year.

The campaign has also been supported by Sarah Price, director of population health at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

She said: "It's great to see Cancer Research UK highlight that research shows vaping is far less harmful than smoking.

"Greater Manchester has higher smoking rates than most other areas of the UK, so we’re keen to help smokers understand their options.

"Swapping to an e-cigarette almost certainly offers smokers a far less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco."