Vaping and your health

Vaping is banned in all places where smoking is banned in the ACT. Find out more about the harms of e-cigarettes and where vaping is banned.

Vaping is not safe. The biggest misunderstanding about vaping, is that it is harmless compared to smoking tobacco cigarettes. This is not true. 

Health experts are concerned about the safety and health impacts of vapes because of the nicotine and other harmful chemicals used in e-liquids, exposure to first- or second-hand particulate matter, and the safety of the devices themselves. 

Vaping products contain many hazardous chemicals. Some of these are corrosive and are harmful to the delicate tissue in our lungs and human health overall.

Many vapes contain large amounts of highly addictive nicotine, even if this is not listed on the pack.

The aerosol produced by vapes is not water vapour but a mixture of toxic chemicals, including heavy metals and corrosive chemicals, which can be absorbed into our lungs.  

Vapes have only been around for a relatively short time. Even though scientists are still learning about e-cigarettes, they are not considered safe.  

Vaping during pregnancy is not safe.

Nicotine 

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance contained in many vapes - even when this is not written on the packaging. Addiction can occur within a matter of weeks from the first use, and it can be difficult to stop. 

Some vapes have been found to contain extremely high levels of nicotine. The nicotine in one vape can be equal to or exceed the nicotine contained in 50 cigarettes. 

Nicotine has harmful effects on a person’s health.

  • Side effects of nicotine may include dizziness, headache, nausea and irritation to skin, eyes and throat.
  • Long-term use of nicotine has been linked to harmful effects on adolescent brain function and development. Find out more information about smoking or vaping during pregnancy
  • Nicotine poisoning can happen quickly. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, or seizures.

If e-liquids that contain nicotine are swallowed, it can cause death. If swallowed call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26
 
Young children are at the highest risk. If a child has swallowed any e-liquid, immediately call 000. 

Find out more information about nicotine poisoning.

Harmful chemicals

Vapes contain many harmful and corrosive chemicals. Some of the chemicals found in vapes are known to cause cancer (carcinogenic). Others are commonly used as ingredients in industrial chemicals or food production and their safety when inhaled into delicate lung tissue has not been tested. Some chemicals found in vapes, which may cause harm are: 

  • Propylene glycol – used as antifreeze
  • Glycerine – a common food and drink additive
  • Diethylene glycol – used in antifreeze, brake fluids and inks
  • Acetone – used as nail polish remover and in chemical paint stripper
  • Formaldehyde – used as a cleaning disinfectant and is classified as flammable and a known carcinogen
  • Acetaldehyde – used in the manufacture of acetic acid, perfumes, dyes, and drugs. Possible carcinogen.
  • Acrolein – used as a biocide in pesticides and leather tanning. Possible carcinogen. 

Vape devices

There are no quality controls on the batteries and chargers being imported into Australia and used in vape devices. 

Most vapes use lithium batteries. These batteries have a risk of explosion. There are reports around the world of vapes exploding due to battery failures and device malfunctions, resulting in burns, injury and even fires.

Vaping to quit smoking 

There is not enough evidence to support the use of e-cigarettes to help people to quit tobacco smoking.

If you need additional support to quit smoking, you should talk to your doctor or health professional about the options available to help you quit.

These include prescription medicines, nicotine replacement therapies and support services. 

Nicotine vaping products should not be the first smoking cessation approach that you try.

If you have unsuccessfully tried other approaches, your doctor might consider it appropriate to prescribe you a nicotine vaping product. Your doctor is under no obligation to prescribe you a nicotine vaping product if they do not think it is appropriate.

In Australia, you must have a prescription to access nicotine vaping products through an Australian pharmacy or from an overseas website. 

Find out how to get support to quit.

Vaping and young people

We know that young people often try vaping as a fun and socially normalised behaviour. Many young people who have never smoked a cigarette are using vapes and are becoming addicted to nicotine within a matter of weeks of vaping for the first time. 

Nicotine addiction can look different from person to person. Some signs of nicotine addiction include:

  • cravings, or feeling like you really need to vape
  • going out of your way to get a vape
  • feeling anxious or irritable if you want to vape but can’t 
  • continuing to vape because you find it hard to stop.

Nicotine can cause long-lasting negative effects on the developing brain. Nicotine changes the way connections are formed in young people’s brains which can lead to impaired attention, learning, memory, and changes in mood and impulse control. 

Young people who vape are three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes. Some young people start smoking cigarettes to stop vaping. 

Human lungs are not meant to inhale vape or cigarette smoke. If you’re ready to talk about your vaping or smoking reach out to services to get help.

Find out how to get support to quit.

More information

Page last updated on: 22 Nov 2023