What are Electronic Cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – are battery-powered devices that heat up a solution (often called e-liquid) to form a vapour, which is inhaled.
The action of inhaling is commonly referred to as ‘vaping’, as the vapour often looks like tobacco smoke and inhaling mimics the action of smoking.
E-cigarettes come in all shapes and sizes. Some look just like cigarettes, while other look completely different, with ‘tank’ type designs and adjustable power settings.
Two main types of e-liquids are sold in Australia: those containing nicotine and those without nicotine. It is important to know that some e-liquids contain nicotine even if they are labelled as ‘nicotine free’.
Since 1 October 2021, people in Australia need a prescription to legally access nicotine vaping products.
Are electronic cigarettes effective for quitting smoking?
There is not enough long-term evidence to promote e-cigarettes as an effective and safe way to quit smoking. Research shows that the most successful approach is to use behavioural support in combination with NRT or other approved medications.
If you have tried to quit smoking using evidence-based quitting methods and not been successful, ask your doctor whether e-cigarettes could be a suitable option. Adults in Australia must have a doctor’s prescription to legally access e-cigarettes containing nicotine.
To reduce the risk of harm, long-term use of e-cigarettes should be minimised. Using tobacco and e-cigarettes at the same time (dual use) should be avoided.
If you’re ready to quit smoking, head to Getting Started to find out how to begin your journey to smoke-free
Are electronic cigarettes safe?
There is limited information available about how safe electronic cigarettes are. The products available in Australia use a wide variety of parts and are sourced from many different manufacturers, including overseas manufacturers where safety and quality controls are unknown.
The safety of electronic cigarettes, liquids and aerosols cannot be guaranteed for users and other people who are exposed to them. Many harmful substances have been found in the heated vapour, including some of the same lung-damaging toxins found in tobacco smoke.
These harmful substances are at a lower level than in tobacco smoke, however higher levels have been recorded in newer devices that allow for higher voltage heating of the e-liquid.
There are also concerns about the unregulated doses of nicotine, other chemicals used in e-liquids, exposure to particulate matter and the safety of the electronic devices themselves.
As e-cigarettes are a relatively new product, the long term effects of exposure to these substances at the level found in electronic cigarettes is unknown.
It is important to remember that, unlike Nicotine Replacement Therapy products, electronic cigarettes have not been assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for effectiveness and safety.
Should I use e-cigarettes to help me quit smoking?
If you’re considering using electronic cigarettes to help you quit smoking, you might want to give the following points some thought:
- There is no strong evidence that electronic cigarettes are any better than current recommended strategies.
- The devices and e-liquids are not regulated as a therapeutic good in Australia and manufacturing standards are not monitored
- In clinical trials, the majority of people that used either nicotine or non-nicotine e-cigarettes did not stop smoking.
Remember, there are plenty of evidence-based quit smoking methods and products that are proven to help people quit smoking, such as professional support and Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) .
Finally, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these questions about why you are really wanting to use e-cigarettes:
Do I just want to use electronic cigarettes to make it easier to maintain lower levels of tobacco smoking?
Am I simply attracted to electronic cigarettes as a more pleasurable, easier way to quit?
I’m ready to stop smoking Click to Start it’s free!
Read more information about e-cigarettes on the NSW Ministry of Health website.