You may have noticed an increase in people vaping when you are out and about in the community, or you may have even tried it yourself. We are hearing people saying that they have given up smoking by taking up vaping, thinking it is safer, and the number of people vaping in some countries is now higher than smoking.

Here are some facts to help you navigate this minefield of mixed information and confusing messages.

E-cigarettes vs vaping – what is the difference?

  • Vaping is the process of heating a flavoured chemical liquid to produce a vapour, which is inhaled. It can be done using a ‘vape’ or an e-cigarette. The vapour delivers the chemicals directly to the lungs.
  • E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) look like a thin tube and are designed to look and feel like a cigarette. They are battery-operated and heat a cartridge full of liquid that contains chemicals and flavours.
  • A vape is a larger device that has a tank for the liquid rather than a cartridge. This can be refilled, rather than discarded and replaced like the cartridge in the e-cigarette.
  • There are also devices that look like cigars, pipes, pens, or even USB memory sticks.

Any products designed to look like tobacco producers, including e-cigarettes even if they do not contain nicotine, are not allowed to be sold by retailers or tobacco shops in Western Australia.

In fact, many e-cigarettes that are labelled as not containing nicotine have been found to contain it. Nicotine products can only be dispensed by a registered pharmacy, on prescription as part of a smoking cessation program.
It is important to note also that there is currently very little regulation around the ingredients of e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

A recent study showed that of the 65 e-liquids currently available in Australia, had ingredients that were not listed on their label, and as mentioned above, many contained nicotine which is illegal to sell without a prescription.

Pros and cons of vaping

As vaping is still quite new, there is not as much long-term research about risks as there is for tobacco. However, the research that has been undertaken already shows concerning outcomes. The National Health and Medical Research Council advises that e-cigarettes expose people to many chemicals and toxins, including formaldehyde, particulate matter, and heavy metals.

It has also been found that vaping has also been the cause of several deaths from lung disease, and studies are showing increased short and long-term effects on the lungs. There are also some research results showing an increased chance of stroke and heart attack. Whilst vaping is still too new to prove a link to cancer, it has been shown to damage human DNA, which is a precursor to the development of cancer in the future.

Overall, the long-term effect of vaping is mainly unknown; however, it is indisputable that it is not healthy for our lungs. Whilst it is marketed as a smoking cessation aid, there is no evidence that this is the case. It is unregulated and already proven to contain cancer-causing carcinogens such as formaldehyde. Whilst it may be considered to be safer than smoking, it is still safer to not start it in the first place and use other methods to help you quit. You are better to speak to your doctor or contact Quitline if you need assistance with smoking cessation, rather than taking up vaping and replacing one habit with another.

Asthma WA will be developing a formal position statement on vaping. If you would like to be a part of the process, please join our Consumer e-Network.

To understand more about vaping, you can read this article Vaping trends, not so trendy – Asthma WA and Electronic cigarettes in Western Australia (

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