E-cigarettes are devices that make vapour for smoking. They’re often marketed as a way to quit smoking, but there isn’t enough evidence to show that they help — or are safe. In Australia, it’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes that contain nicotine.
What are e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are devices that deliver an aerosol by heating a solution that users breath in. The aerosol is commonly referred to as ‘vapour’. Using an e-cigarette is commonly referred to as ‘vaping’.
E-cigarettes are battery‑operated and may look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens or memory sticks.
The liquids used in e-cigarettes:
- may contain a range of toxic chemicals including those that add flavour
- sometimes contain nicotine even if they are labelled as being ‘nicotine free’
Did you know?
E-cigarettes may also be known as electronic cigarettes, e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS), alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS), personal vaporisers, e-hookahs, vape pens and vapes.
Are e-cigarettes safe?
No. Even though scientists are still learning about e-cigarettes, they cannot be considered safe.
Hazardous substances have been found in e-cigarette liquids and in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein, which are known to cause cancer. Some chemicals in e-cigarette aerosols can also cause DNA damage.
E-cigarettes do not produce the tar produced by conventional cigarettes which is the main cause of lung cancer. However, many scientists are concerned that using e-cigarettes could increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer.
Research also shows:
- a strong association between the use of e-cigarettes by non-smoking youth and future smoking
- that many e-cigarette users appear to be continuing to use conventional tobacco products at the same time (dual users). However, this is not a safe way to improve heath. Dual users may be exposing themselves to even higher levels of toxicants compared to people who solely use conventional tobacco products
It can be hard to assess the safety of e-cigarettes and liquids because:
- there is a wide variety of devices and liquids sold
- their labels are often incomplete or incorrect
- users can change the liquid they use in their e-cigarette and how the device operates
- many diseases (such as cancer) take a long time to develop
Can e-cigarettes help you to quit smoking?
Currently, there is insufficient evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.
In Australia, you can’t sell products that claim to help people quit smoking unless the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved them for this purpose.
The TGA has not approved any e-cigarettes for sale to help people quit smoking. Any person or company with an Australian sponsor may apply to the TGA to market an e-cigarette as a therapeutic good in Australia.
If you need help with quitting smoking:
- read about the ways you can quit smoking
- get in touch with a support service in our smoking and tobacco contacts
Are e-cigarettes legal?
Various laws apply to the marketing and use of e-cigarettes in Australia.
It’s illegal to use, sell or buy nicotine for use in e-cigarettes.
Find out more about e-cigarette laws.
What we’re doing
We keep track of research about e-cigarettes to make sure we provide the most up‑to‑date advice to you.
For more information about e-cigarettes, take a look at the:
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) statement on e-cigarettes
- Australian Government’s guiding principles for e-cigarettes
- CSIRO literature review into the use and health impacts of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers