Electronic cigarettes can also be called e-cigarettes, e-cigars, vape pens or personal vapours. They are not approved as an aid to quit smoking in Australia and are not listed under the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
How they work
Using these devices is commonly referred to as ‘vaping’. They work by heating liquid, which usually contains nicotine, into a fine vapour for inhalation into the lungs. This creates a mist that is then inhaled. They have a vaporiser, battery, and a cartridge or tank that contains a liquid which may include nicotine, vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, food-grade flavouring and distilled water.
Electronic cigarettes may:
- deliver unreliable doses of nicotine
- leak their contents
- be a poisoning risk, particularly for children
- not list the presence and/or actual strength of nicotine on the product label
- contain other unknown, possibly toxic chemicals
- have incorrect or inconsistent labelling and unsafe packaging
- encourage the uptake of smoking
- have no child safety measures, and
- be unsafe to use during pregnancy.
Many electronic cigarette cartridges also contain other potentially harmful ingredients such as propylene glycol (a solvent to produce fog or smoke used in theatrical productions), polyester compounds, anti-freeze, or vegetable glycerine.
Nicotine is a dangerous poison and can cause serious injury and death. It can be absorbed through the skin. Liquid nicotine refill for electronic cigarettes are particularly dangerous to younger children who might be attracted by the packaging and the use of fruit and confectionery flavouring, such as chocolate, bubble gum, apple, and watermelon. The median lethal dose of nicotine has been estimated to be 6.5–13 mg/kg; hence, an accidental ingestion of one tablespoon of commercially available liquid nicotine refill is sufficient to induce irreversible damage or death, particularly in children.
If you think a child or someone may have been poisoned, don't wait for symptoms to occur. If the person has collapsed or is not breathing, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Once the ambulance is on its way, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for first aid advice. Don't try to make the person vomit unless Poisons Information Centre or a doctor recommend it.
Restrictions on use
Electronic cigarettes are considered to be smoking products under the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998 and cannot be used in existing non-smoking indoor and outdoor areas, sold to children under 18 years of age, or advertised, promoted or displayed at retail outlets.
Liquid nicotine is illegal
To report the sale or possession of electronic cigarettes containing liquid nicotine, call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
Safely dispose or surrender
If you have an electronic cigarette, you can safely dispose it at:
- a community pharmacy
- your local public health unit