Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen
Written by Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen, Jun 16, 2022
Fact Checked

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices. Inside the device is a coil that heats up a liquid to make a vapor. This vapor includes nicotine and/or other substances with or without tobacco or smoke. Electronic cigarettes are also called vapes. Using electronic cigarettes or vapes is commonly called ‘vaping’. 

It is estimated that 1.2% of Australians now vape. The initial idea about vaping was to reduce the use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes. Unfortunately, a many people who use vapes are people who have never smoked or young people.

Vaping is becoming more common amongst teenagers because they think it is safe. This is not true. Vapes are colourful, are available in many flavours and seem "fun". These factors also appeal to teenagers. In 2017, 14% of secondary school students in Australia have tried e-cigarettes.

While vapes are not fully regulated, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recently cracked down on Australians ordering vapes from overseas. But they can only regulate some. There are a lot less regulations around the manufacture and supply of vaping liquid flavours in Australia. 

Common myths about vaping 

Myth: Vaping is nicotine free.

Vape liquids are not always free from nicotine. Liquids that claim to be nicotine free can still contain nicotine. Nicotine is addictive and can damage the developing brain. In Australia, nicotine vaping products need a prescription. Scientific research that looked at 10 vaping liquids that were labelled "nicotine free' found that nicotine was present in six of the e‐liquids. 
 

Myth: Vaping is safe.

Vaping is not safe. There are many health risks that we do not yet know about. Vaping can damage lungs and may cause death. This is called EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury). Vaping may increase the risk of oral cancer and periodontal disease. 
 

Myth: We know the effects of vaping on health.

We do not know the effects of vaping on health. A lot more research is needed to understand how vaping really affects health.

What is in vaping liquid?

The liquid inside the e-cigarette is called vaping liquid or e-liquid.

Vaping liquids can contain harmful chemicals. The heating/cooling/ageing process can affect the chemicals in the vaping liquid. The vape and the coil that heats the liquid can also break down over time. This can cause you to breath in heavy metals and microplastics.

Scientific research looked at 65 common liquids used in vapes from local suppliers that are available in Australia. It found that all vaping liquids contained one or more chemicals that may damage the health of the body. None of the e-liquids listed all ingredients found by the researchers correctly. 
Some of these ingredients included:

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
These are the same strong cancer-causing chemicals that are found in cigarettes. They have been linked to many types of cancer

Benzaldehyde
This chemical is added to e-cigarettes to give them flavour. It can irritate the lungs. 

Transcinnamaldehyde
This chemical can irritate the lungs 

2-chlorophenol
This chemical is often used in pesticides and disinfectants. It can irritate the skin and lungs.

essica Simpson
About the Author
Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen

Amanda is a Perth Oral Medicine Specialist, Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia, and Consultant at Perth Children’s Hospital.

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