About vaping and e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are devices that make vapour for inhalation, simulating cigarette smoking. They are not safe and use can lead to serious health outcomes. They are sometimes marketed as a way to quit smoking, but there is limited evidence to show that they help – or are safe.

New laws for the regulation of e-cigarettes will be introduced in 2024 to protect the health of the community, particularly young people.

Get support for quitting smoking and vaping.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are devices that deliver an aerosol by heating a liquid that users breathe in. People commonly refer to this aerosol as ‘vapour’, and to using an e-cigarette as ‘vaping’.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated and may look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens or memory sticks, and

  • may not always list the ingredients of the liquids
  • contain a range of chemicals that have not been tested for safety, including those that add flavour
  • may contain nicotine even if labelled as ‘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)
  • nicotine vaping products (NVP)
  • personal vaporisers
  • e-hookahs
  • vape pens
  • vapes.

Vaping and young people

The use of vapes has increased rapidly in recent years, particularly among young people. This is concerning as vaping is contributing to a range of health harms.

Learn more about young people and vaping.

Public health risks of vaping and e-cigarettes

Even though scientists and public health experts are still learning about e-cigarettes, they do not consider them safe.

Health impacts of vaping devices and liquids

Most e-cigarettes in Australia contain nicotine – even when the packaging says it doesn’t. Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic drug that can harm brain development and impact attention, learning, memory and changes in mood.  

All e-cigarettes, even those that don’t contain nicotine, can contain dangerous substances in the liquids and the aerosol. These can include a number of known cancer-causing agents, such as:

  • formaldehyde (used in industrial glues and for preserving corpses in hospitals and funeral homes)
  • acetone (generally found in nail polish remover)
  • acetaldehyde (used in chemicals, perfumes, and plastics)
  • acrolein (commonly found in weedkiller)
  • heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.

They can also contain:

  • propylene glycol – a solvent used in fog/smoke machines
  • polyester compounds
  • anti-freeze – used in the coolant of a car
  • vegetable glycerin – a liquid from vegetable fat.

Direct health risks of vaping

Known health risks associated with vaping include:

  • irritation of the mouth and airways
  • persistent coughing
  • nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain and palpitations
  • poisoning and seizures from inhaling too much nicotine or ingestion of e-liquid
  • burns or injury caused by e-cigarette overheating or exploding
  • nicotine dependence
  • respiratory problems and permanent lung damage
  • harm to the developing adolescent brain.

Some chemicals in e-cigarette aerosols can also cause DNA damage.

E-cigarettes do not produce the tar found in conventional cigarettes which is the main cause of lung cancer. However, many scientists are concerned that vaping could increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer.

Additional risks of e-cigarettes

Research shows a strong association between vaping and future smoking behaviours. Young people who vape are 3 times more likely to take up smoking cigarettes.

As with smoking, being around people who vape means you can also breathe in second-hand aerosols from vapes.

Research also shows that many e-cigarette users appear to be continuing to use conventional tobacco products at the same time (dual users). This is not a safe way to improve heath. Dual users may be exposing themselves to even higher levels of toxic chemicals compared to people who solely use conventional tobacco products.

Assessing safety is difficult

It can be hard to assess the safety of e-cigarettes and liquids because:

  • there are 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.

Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking

If you are wondering whether e-cigarettes can help you quit smoking, your first step is to speak with your doctor – they can provide advice about suitable options to help you quit smoking.

While some people may have successfully quit smoking using an e-cigarette, the overall evidence of the effectiveness of these products as a smoking cessation aid remains limited. E-cigarette products are not ‘first line’ treatments for smoking cessation, and there are many other products available to quit smoking that are known to be safe and effective.

Learn how to quit smoking and vaping.

Vaping and e-cigarette laws

In recognition of the health dangers posed by e-cigarettes, the Australian Government is taking clear action to reduce vaping through stronger legislation, enforcement, education and support.

Since 1 October 2021, Australians require a prescription to lawfully access nicotine containing e-cigarette products.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are developing new reforms that will mean all e-cigarette products will require a prescription and must be sold in pharmacy settings, even if they don’t have nicotine in them.

New reforms for e-cigarettes

The Government has announced its intention to protect Australians, particularly young people, from the harms of vaping and nicotine dependence.  

From 1 January 2024, restrictions will change around the:

  • import
  • availability
  • advertising
  • sale of e-cigarette products and liquids (nicotine and non-nicotine).

Further changes will be introduced throughout 2024, which includes stopping the import and sale of non-prescription vapes.

For prescription vapes, the Government also intends to introduce strong regulations to:

  • increase the minimum quality standards - including by restricting flavours, colours, and other ingredients
  • require pharmaceutical-like packaging
  • reduce the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes
  • ban all single use, disposable vapes.
  • limit the sale of vapes so people can only obtain them from a pharmacy and must have a prescription.

The TGA is leading the development of these reforms. Read more about the new regulations and nicotine vaping products.

New restrictions to the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes will also apply. The new Public Health (Tobacco and Other Products) legislation, to commence from 1 April 2024, will apply tobacco advertising and sponsorship prohibitions to e-cigarettes.

Find more information on the new legislation for tobacco control and on tobacco advertising bans.

Indoor and outdoor settings that prohibit vaping

It is generally illegal to vape in places where tobacco smoking is banned. Smoke-free laws apply to everyone, including young people, but can differ by state or territory.

Check our smoke-free laws for more information.

What we’re doing

Protecting young people is the primary focus of the Government’s reforms to e-cigarette regulation. The National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030 has been developed with input from stakeholders, experts, non-government organisations and the public and is endorsed by all Australian governments. The strategy includes priorities for e-cigarette control in Australia.  

We are developing a range of regulatory and non-regulatory measures to support these reforms. These include updating existing regulations related to vaping and public health information campaign with the aim to:

  • prevent and reduce nicotine addiction
  • denormalise vaping
  • drive and support e-cigarette quit attempts
  • increase support in the community for quitting.
  • reduce the likelihood of people substituting smoking for vaping (and vice versa) instead of quitting.

Read more in our budget paper, Tackling smoking and vaping, and improving cancer outcomes.

We make sure our advice is in line with the guiding principles for e-cigarettes. All Australian governments have agreed to these principles.

Learn more about e-cigarettes

We also keep track of research about e-cigarettes to make sure we provide the most up-to-date advice to you.

Research and studies

Information and support

For parents, carers and schools

Find information for parents and carers on supporting young people to quit vaping.

For health professionals

Quitline

Contact Quitline for help to quit smoking and vaping. You can call the hotline on 13 QUIT (13 7848), to talk to a counsellor or request a callback. The Quitline offers an online chat service in some states and territories, and has resources for health professionals.
Date last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.