Healthy living

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)

Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes, e-cigs, personal vaporisers or PVs) are battery-powered devices which heat a cartridge containing nicotine, flavouring and other chemicals into a mist. The mist is inhaled through a mouthpiece and then exhaled by the user as a visible vapour.

E-cigarettes typically mimic traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes in appearance, but are increasingly available in other styles. Cartridges which do not contain nicotine are also available.

Are they legal?

Sales of e-cigarettes containing nicotine are not legal anywhere in Australia. Nicotine is a dangerous poison, even in small quantities, and it is strictly regulated in WA under the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 (external site).

Products that resemble tobacco products, regardless of whether they contain nicotine or not, cannot be sold in WA and it is an offence under the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 (external site) to sell such products. In a Supreme Court of WA decision of 2014, electronic cigarettes were found to resemble a tobacco product. This decision was unanimously upheld by the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of WA in March 2016.

Are they safe?

There is little information available about the safety of e-cigarettes, whether or not they contain nicotine, and nothing on the effects of long-term use.

All e-cigarettes are imported, and in many cases they are manufactured in an unregulated environment without quality control over design, content or consumer information.

The World Health Organization (external site) recommends that unless e-cigarettes are proven to be safe and effective, consumers should be advised to avoid them.

Will they help me quit?

Some sellers of e-cigarettes claim that they can be used as an aid in quitting. It is against the law to do this in Australia, unless the product has been tested and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The TGA has not assessed or approved e-cigarettes as a cessation aid (external site), and their quality and safety is not known. The TGA has approved a range of nicotine replacement therapy products, which are available from supermarkets and chemists.

There is no reliable evidence that e-cigarettes are any more likely to help people quit smoking than using nicotine replacement therapy products.

Where to get more information about quitting smoking

For more information about e-cigarettes and the law

Remember

  • Electronic cigarettes are not approved by the TGA as nicotine replacement products.
  • The manufacture of e-cigarettes is unregulated.
  • It is illegal to sell electronic cigarettes containing nicotine in Australia.
  • The long-term health effects from using e-cigarettes are currently unknown.

Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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