What are electronic cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (called “e-liquid”) to produce a vapour that users inhale. They are designed to deliver nicotine and/or other chemicals via an aerosol vapour directly to your lungs (also referred to as vape or e-liquid nicotine). E-cigarettes do not generally contain tobacco and products vary in terms of ingredients and designs.
Some e-cigarettes look a lot like traditional cigarettes while others look like everyday items such as pens, USB memory sticks, and larger cylindrical or rectangular devices. Some e-cigarettes and e-liquids contain nicotine while others do not.
All e-cigarettes have three basic components: a battery, an atomiser and a fluid cartridge. The fluid used in e-cigarettes usually contains propylene glycol, glycerol, nicotine and added flavourings.
Are electronic cigarettes legal in NSW?
E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal in NSW. Adults can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine.
The sale and use of e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine is illegal under the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 without approval from the NSW Ministry of Health.
The following regulations also apply to e-cigarettes in NSW:
- The sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18 is banned
- E-cigarette advertising and in-store promotions, including displays, are banned
- The use of e-cigarettes in cars with minors under the age of 16 years is banned
- Businesses wanting to sell e-cigarettes are required to register with the NSW Ministry of Health
- The use of e-cigarettes in indoor and outdoor areas where it is illegal to smoke tobacco products (e.g. in workplaces, on public transport, in restaurants, near children’s play equipment) is banned
Are electronic cigarettes safe?
The short and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are currently being researched. As e-cigarettes are relatively new it means that there is not enough data available to determine the long-term health effects.
E-cigarettes are not risk free. They may expose users and bystanders to chemicals and toxins such as propylene glycol, glycerol or ethylene glycol that cause adverse health effects, and may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory diseases. E-liquids or vapour may also contain potentially harmful chemicals which are not present in smoke from tobacco cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are often labelled incorrectly and may contain nicotine, even when they claim not to contain nicotine. E-cigarettes may contain high levels of nicotine, which may cause poisoning if swallowed.
Do electronic cigarettes help smokers quit?
The evidence for e-cigarettes as cessation aids to help you quit smoking is inconclusive. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved any e-cigarette product as a cessation aid to help with quitting smoking. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved many other products such as patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray and inhalators as quitting aids that are safe to use and are shown to increase chances of quitting smoking.
What is Cancer Council NSW’s policy position on electronic cigarettes?
We support the NSW Government’s regulation of the sale and use of e-cigarettes in a similar way to tobacco products.