What are e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes (also known as ‘vapes’) are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (e-liquid, also called ‘juice’) until it turns into an aerosol, which the user then inhales. Using an e-cigarette is commonly known as ‘vaping’.
What does e-liquid contain?
- A mix of carrier liquids, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol (which gives the aerosol the characteristic smoke-like cloud and sensation in the throat to stimulate the same experience as smoking).
- Food chemicals that have not been tested for safety when INHALED.
- Safest to assume that all e-liquids do contain nicotine which is addictive and, if ingested, toxic.
Evidence of harms
What we know is that:
- Nicotine is highly addictive – it is among the most addictive substances known. Many e-cigarettes labelled ‘nicotine-free’ are incorrectly labelled and do in fact contain nicotine. Users may think – wrongly – that they are using nicotine-free devices with no risk of addiction.
- Young peoples’ brains are still developing until they reach 25. Nicotine harms adolescent brain development, impacting memory and concentration.
- Our lungs are designed to breathe in clean, fresh air to power our bodies and brains. Vaping involves inhaling chemicals deep into the lungs over and over.
- In addition to nicotine, we know that the aerosol inhaled from e-cigarettes contains dozens of harmful toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, and heavy metals (e.g. lead and arsenic have been found). These are substances known to cause damage to the lungs and airways and can damage the brain. They have also been linked to cancer.
- Inhaling the aerosols from e-cigarettes can result in toxic chemicals and fine particles lodging deep in the user’s lungs, increasing their risk of respiratory diseases.
- E-cigarettes containing liquid nicotine are highly addictive. But all e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that harm your health.
For more information see: Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/about-smoking-and-tobacco/about-e-cigarettes
For more detailed information about the harms and safety risks of e-cigarettes: https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-18-harm-reduction/indepth-18b-e-cigarettes/18b-5-safety
In Tasmania, e-cigarettes are banned in smoke-free areas. For more information, see here.
Nicotine vaping products require a prescription
Since October 2021, Australians need a prescription to legally access nicotine vaping products (nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine). For more information go to: https://www.tga.gov.au/products/medicines/prescription-medicines/nicotine-vaping-products-hub
It is illegal for tobacconists, ‘vape’ shops and convenience stores to sell nicotine vaping products.
Can e-cigarettes help smokers to quit smoking?
Currently, there is insufficient evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. To date, no nicotine vaping products have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for efficacy, quality and safety.
Evidence-based best practice tobacco dependence treatment is a combination of:
- Multisession behavioural intervention, such as that offered through Quitline 13 7848 and
- Smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, if clinically appropriate, such as combination nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
People who smoke, who would like to quit and are thinking about vaping, should always first discuss this with a qualified medical professional to determine whether e-cigarettes containing nicotine are a suitable option.
To read Cancer Council’s October 2022 Electronic Cigarettes Position Statement, please click here
Cancer Council NSW have produced a fact sheet for parents ‘E-cigarettes: What you need to know as parents’ which your clients may find useful. here
Fact Sheets (click to view and download each PDF)
Poster: e-cigarettes and nicotine: the facts (875Kb PDF)