Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

E-cigarettes (vaping)

6-minute read

Key facts

  • The long-term safety and health effects associated with E-cigarettes and exposure to second-hand vapour are still unknown.
  • If e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) contain nicotine, there may be a high risk of dependence and tolerance, as with tobacco cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes are often marketed as a way to quit smoking but there isn’t enough evidence to support this.
  • You cannot purchase nicotine vaping products without a prescription.
  • E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that look and feel like cigarettes, cigars, pens or other common items, but they do not burn tobacco.
  • All vapes containing nicotine are regulated as prescription medicines so can only be supplied in pharmacies.

What is an e-cigarette?

E-cigarettes heat liquids to produce a vapour that looks like smoke, which users inhale. Using an e-cigarette is often called 'vaping'.

The liquids can contain chemicals and flavourings, like chocolate, bubble-gum and fruity flavours. E-cigarettes might be shaped like cigarettes, cigars, pens or other common items.

Nicotine vaping products can only be purchased from a pharmacy with a doctor’s prescription. This includes nicotine e-cigarettes, pods and liquid nicotine.

It is also illegal to import disposable vapes from overseas — whether they contain nicotine or not. This means that it’s against the law to purchase disposable vapes online from an overseas supplier, even if you have a prescription.

More information about Australia’s vaping and e-cigarette laws is available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s website.

Is vaping harmful?

There is not enough research on e-cigarettes to know exactly how they affect your health. There is evidence that suggests a link between vaping and lung disease that requires intensive care.

Most e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. Yet the toxic chemicals and flavourings in e-cigarettes could be very harmful.

Most products that involve inhaling (breathing in) chemicals into the lungs go through a long testing process before scientists can know if they are safe and effective. These tests have not yet been done on the e-cigarettes available in Australia, so their safety can't be guaranteed.

Experts are also concerned that teenagers and young people who wouldn't try 'real' cigarettes may be attracted to vaping. There is a risk that e-cigarettes could normalise smoking, and act as a gateway to tobacco cigarettes.

Vaping liquids can harm children

Liquid nicotine refills for e-cigarettes are very dangerous for both children and adults. They are illegal in Australia. Nicotine is a poison that can be absorbed through the skin. Accidental swallowing of liquid nicotine can be deadly.

One teaspoon of liquid nicotine refill is enough to cause permanent damage or even death, especially in children.

If you suspect that someone has been poisoned, 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.

Do e-cigarettes help you quit smoking?

There is limited evidence that e-cigarettes are effective in helping people give up smoking in the short or long-term.

E-cigarettes are not approved in Australia as a smoking cessation (stopping) aid.

If you want to give up smoking, call the Quitline on 13 7848.

You can also talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) aids. These include patches, gum and inhalators. These are generally available at the pharmacy over the counter. If you have a prescription, you may be able to get them at a reduced cost on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Combining 2 forms of NRT seem to work better than one since they work in different ways.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Can you use e-cigarettes in public places?

You cannot use e-cigarettes any place that cigarette smoking is not allowed. This includes:

  • shopping centres
  • buses
  • trains
  • near children's play equipment
  • outdoor dining areas
  • sports grounds

This is in effect in all states and territories except Western Australia.

To find out about the laws on e-cigarette use in public spaces where you live, visit the relevant link:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Electronic cigarettes | NHMRC

CEO Statement on Electronic Cigarettes The intent of the CEO Statement on Electronic Cigarettes (the CEO Statement) is to provide Australians with up-to-date information on e-cigarettes, including what the research says about the safety and potential health implications of e-cigarettes, the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, and the potential impacts of e-cigarette sponsorship, advertising, and promotion. 

Read more on NHMRC – National Health and Medical Research Council website

Electronic cigarettes - Tobacco and smoking

Electronic cigarettes are a relatively new and concerning development in smoking practices. Read more about NSW Health's stance on these devices.

Read more on NSW Health website

Can nicotine e-cigarettes be used for smoking cessation - Lung Foundation Australia

Learn Lung Foundation Australia's views on e cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, including the latest evidence and advice.

Read more on Lung Foundation Australia website

E cigarettes and vaping - Smoking - WellMob

When we choose to give up smoking, we breathe easier, stay healthier and have more money. There is help available to give up the smokes and deal with withdrawal from nicotine.

Read more on WellMob website

Electronic cigarettes | Smoking laws in Queensland | Queensland Health

Find out about the rules for the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.

Read more on Queensland Health website

E-cigarettes | Cancer Council

E-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapour that users inhale. Find out more about how safe they are here

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

E-cigarettes and vaping - Lung Foundation Australia

Learn more about e-cigarette and vaping and the potential long-term health risks associated with vaping, particularly for young people.

Read more on Lung Foundation Australia website

Vaping in Australia - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Those using e-cigarettes are three times more likely to smoke combustible tobacco than those who have not used e-cigarettes

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Smoking and vaping | ACT Health

Read more on ACT Health website

E-liquids for use in e-cigarettes - Better Health Channel

E-liquid products may or may not contain nicotine or other harmful substances. E-liquid products are not always labelled accurately and there is no guarantee that a product does not contain nicotine.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.