About vaping and e-cigarettes

Vapes, mods, tank systems, e-cigs and vape pens are all forms of e-cigarettes. They are not safe, and use can lead to serious health problems.

New laws for the regulation of e-cigarettes have been introduced in 2024 to protect the health of the community, particularly young people. From 1 July 2024, vapes will only be available at pharmacies to help people quit smoking or manage their nicotine dependence. It is illegal for retailers, such as tobacconists, vape shops and convenience stores, to sell any type of vape whether it has nicotine in it or not.

Get support for quitting smoking and vaping.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-operated 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’.

Illegal e-cigarettes: 

  • 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’
  • may look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens or memory sticks.

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
  • 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.

The nicotine in vapes is highly addictive and may also affect your mental health.

You may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • mood changes
  • difficultly concentrating
  • feeling nervous, restless, irritable and/or
  • anxiousness.

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

Evidence shows a strong association between vaping and future smoking behaviours. Research indicates that young people who vape, but have never smoked, are more likely to take up tobacco smoking compared to young people who have never vaped. 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). Dual users may be exposing themselves to even higher levels of toxic chemicals compared to people who solely use conventional tobacco products.

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 and reforms

From 1 July 2024, all nicotine vapes in Australia are regulated as therapeutic goods. This means they are only available at pharmacies to help people quit smoking or manage nicotine dependence. 

It is illegal for any other business, such as tobacconists, vape shops and convenience stores, to sell any type of vape or vape product.  

Until 30 September 2024, everyone needs a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner to purchase nicotine vapes from a pharmacy.

From 1 October 2024, people 18 years or over will be able to purchase therapeutic vapes directly from a pharmacy without a prescription. 

People under 18 will still need a prescription to access vapes, where state and territory laws allow it, to ensure they get appropriate medical advice and supervision.

The concentration of nicotine in vapes sold in pharmacies without a prescription will be limited to 20mg/ml; people who require vapes with a higher concentration of nicotine will still require a prescription. 

Additional changes will limit the flavours available to mint, menthol and tobacco, and require plain pharmaceutical packaging for all vape products.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is leading the development of these reforms. Read more about the new regulations and nicotine vaping products.

Download an information sheet and social media tiles on the changes to vaping in Australia from 1 July 2024. 

The Public Health (Tobacco and Other Products) Act 2023 commenced from 1 April 2024. The same bans that apply to tobacco advertising and sponsorship will apply to vapes.

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 Government is 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.  

Government is 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.

Advice is in line with the guiding principles for e-cigarettes. All Australian governments have agreed to these principles.

Research and studies

Information and support

For parents, carers and schools

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

Download an information sheet and social media tiles for parents, carers and teachers on the changes to vaping in Australia from 1 July 2024.

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.
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