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Vaping

Vapes, vaping, e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vape sticks, pods, cuvies, stigs

E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid, called 'e-liquid' and sold in a variety of flavours, into a vapourBlack and white photograph of man blowing vapour out of a vape pen that users inhale. Inhaling this vapour is commonly referred to as 'vaping'. 

The E-liquid, also known as 'vape juice', contains a number of chemicals including propylene glycol and glycerol, and in some cases chemicals linked to cancer such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein.  Vape juice also often contains nicotine, the highly addictive drug found in tobacco products such as cigarettes. 

Studies have shown vaping leads to an increased likelihood of tobacco smoking in young people. Despite a significant decrease in use among Australians, tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. 

See the Tobacco page of the A to Z of drugs for more information. 

Vaping and the law

E-cigarettes that contain nicotine are illegal in NSW. The sale and use of e-liquid nicotine, including in e-cigarettes, in NSW is illegal - so too are vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil, or cannabinoids. E-cigarettes without nicotine can legally be sold by registered stores only. These stores must comply with strict rules. 

Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 (NSW), it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes or e-cigarette accessories to a person under 18 years of age. Adults (18 years and over) can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine. 

The Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 and the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017 prohibit people from using e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas.  

Short term effects

E-cigarettes containing nicotine provide effects similar to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Other effects, such as flavour and the amount of vapour produced, will vary based on the contents of the e-liquid.

Long term effects

Measuring the long-term effects of vaping is made difficult due to the fact that it is relatively new. Furthermore, the wide variance in chemical make-up of various e-liquids means that research done on one type of vaping product may not be relevant to the long term effects of using a different type of e-liquid.  

Vaping may expose users to carcinogenic toxins found in cigarettes, and some chemicals not typically found in tobacco products. The Cancer Council’s position is that vaping is not risk-free. Long-term use may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.  

Vaping and pregnancy

There is no safe amount of smoking while pregnant. Given the presence of nicotine and other chemicals in e-liquid, vaping while pregnant is not recommended. 

Dependence

The use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine brings a high risk of dependence, as with tobacco smoking. Testing has shown that some e-liquid labelled ‘nicotine free’ actually contains high nicotine levels, leading to the possibility of people unknowingly developing a nicotine addiction. 

Getting help

Quitline counsellors are available to answer any questions you may have about e-cigarettes on 13 78 48. They can also help you think of ways to approach a conversation with your child or loved one about vaping. 

For people who are attempting to quit tobacco and were considering using nicotine-free e-cigarettes, using nicotine replacement therapy products such as lozenges, gums, nasal sprays and patches may be a better option. The NSW Cancer Institute iCanQuit website provides information on quitting methods, links to support groups and top tips to help you choose the best method for you. 

You can also get help via phone from the following services: 

  • Call Quitline on 13 78 48 (13 QUIT) for information and advice about quitting, assessment of your nicotine dependence, strategies on preparing to quit and staying quit. 
  • The Aboriginal Quitline is also available on 13 78 48 (13 QUIT). Run by Aboriginal Advisors, the Aboriginal Quitline is a telephone-based confidential advice and support service. 

Source: NSW Health, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), NSW Department of Education, Cancer Council NSW