Questions and answers on vaping

Your questions about vaping, answered.

  • E-cigarettes are devices that make an aerosol by heating a liquid that people breathe in. People call e-cigarettes ‘vapes’ and talk about using e-cigarettes as ‘vaping’.

    Vapes are battery operated and can be disposable or sold as pod devices.

    The e-liquid in vapes contains a range of chemicals, and normally includes nicotine.

  • Vapes come in different shapes and sizes. Some are made to look like other objects, like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens or USB devices.

    Vapes can have flavours added to the e-liquid and this can make them smell and taste sweet. Some vapes smell like incense or lollies.

  • Vapes can have up to 200 chemicals in them, including formaldehyde, nicotine and heavy metals.

    Most vapes sold in Australia contain nicotine – even when the packaging says they don’t. 

    Vapes can contain high levels of nicotine. Often the nicotine content depends on the size of the vape. The label is unlikely to say how much nicotine it contains.

    All vapes can have dangerous substances in the liquids and the aerosols. Some chemicals found in vapes are known to cause cancer, like:

    • 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.
  • Vapes don’t always list all the ingredients they contain on the pack. Vapes can have nicotine in them, even if they are labelled ‘nicotine-free’.

    Vapes can be labelled incorrectly. Sometimes the ingredients list is not accurate or not complete. While the packaging might list some ingredients, it may not include all the chemicals in the vapour.

    We don’t know all the ingredients in vapes and the ones we do know may be harmful to you. This is why the Australian Government is bringing in new laws to protect the health and wellbeing of young people from the harms of vapes.

  • Short- and long-term vaping is dangerous to your health. All the long-term effects of vaping aren’t known yet but what we know right now isn’t great. If you’re under 25 and vape, some of the short-term risks you're exposed to are:

    • irritated mouth and airways
    • persistent coughing
    • feeling out of breath 
    • feeling nauseous and vomiting
    • seizures from inhaling too much nicotine or swallowing e-liquid
    • burns or injury when the vape overheats or explodes
    • addiction symptoms from the nicotine in vapes
    • feeling more stressed or anxious.
  • Vaping damages your short- and long-term health.

    • The nicotine in vapes is addictive and you can become dependent on it. 
    • Vaping can make you feel more stressed.
    • Vaping can cause breathing problems and permanent lung damage.
    • Vaping can harm your brain development.

    Some chemicals found in vapes are known to cause cancer. Because vaping is relatively new, we don’t know all of the long-term effects yet.

  • Nicotine, a chemical that’s in most vapes in Australia, is addictive. It’s also one of the most toxic poisons we know about.

    Nicotine poisoning can happen if the liquid nicotine in a vape is swallowed, or if you have too much in your body. With nicotine poisoning, you can initially:

    • feel nauseous 
    • vomit
    • feel dizzy or have head spins
    • feel confused
    • have headaches
    • experience your heart rate changing.

    Later, you might also:

    • have diarrhoea
    • experience shallow breathing
    • lose your appetite
    • feel weak
    • feel tired.

    People talk about nicotine poisoning as getting ‘nic-sick’. Nicotine poisoning used to be rare, but recently it’s become more common because of vaping.

    If you suspect that someone has been poisoned from a vape, get medical help immediately. You can call the Poisons Information Line 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia on 13 11 26.

    If the person is showing signs of being seriously ill, such as vomiting, loss of consciousness, drowsiness or seizures (fits), call triple zero (000) for an ambulance, or take the person to the closest emergency department.

  • Nicotine is highly addictive and one of the most toxic poisons. It can:

    • harm your brain development 
    • affect your attention, how you learn, and your memory
    • affect your mood. 

    Nicotine activates receptors in the brain. When these receptors are activated, they release a brain chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel good. 

    As the nicotine levels in the body fade, the brain craves more dopamine. The longer someone has been vaping nicotine, the more dopamine they need to feel good. People become dependent on nicotine to create this feeling.

    Nicotine dependence can develop quickly. Once people are dependent on nicotine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms without it. This includes difficultly concentrating and feeling nervous, restless, irritable, or anxious.

  • It’s illegal to sell vapes – even if the vape doesn’t contain nicotine – to someone who’s under 18 in Australia. This includes online selling.

    Even if the vape does not contain nicotine, selling vapes to someone under the age of 18 is illegal. Read up on new laws about vaping.

  • Lots of people have already quit vaping. You can too. There are different kinds of support to help you quit and stay vape-free. Find what works for you!

    Read up

    If you’ve decided to quit, you can read up on what it’s like to go vape-free. Quitting can be easier when you know what to expect.

    Get support

    It’s a good idea to get support when you quit. Talk to someone about quitting – whether it’s a service like Quit, or a trusted friend or family member. Quitting vapes can be tough, but you don’t have to do it alone.

    Plan on it

    Lots of people find it easier to quit when they have a plan. Your quit plan is unique to you, but there are templates, tools and ideas to help you get started. Download the free My QuitBuddy app – it includes great features to help you plan and quit successfully. Age restrictions may apply – check your app store for details.

    Find your quit inspo

    There are so many good reasons to quit vaping. If you’re finding quitting tough, it helps to remind yourself of what inspired you to quit. We’ve listed a few here – what’s yours?

    Keep going

    If you’re trying to quit, you might be having cravings and finding it difficult to give up vapes. Don’t let this get you down – remember why you want to quit. Lots of people have found it takes a few tries before they are completely vape-free.

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