E-cigarettes are nicotine delivery devices operated by batteries that simulate tobacco smoking by producing a vapour. The device vaporizes a liquid which may contain nicotine and often flavours such as chocolate, bubble-gum or fruit. The act of using these devices is called vaping. Manufactures promote e-cigarettes as safer than traditional smoking as no tobacco burning is involved. A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found evidence that vaping might prompt teenagers to try cigarettes.  

The latest data about vaping incidence for Australia was from 2014, when 13% of secondary school students reported ever using an e-cigarette ( Australian Secondary School Students Alcohol and Other Drugs Study), it is currently illegal in Australia to sell nicotine e-cigarettes, but they may be purchased online for personal use and the nicotine-containing refills also purchased online with a medical prescription for nicotine.

Electronic cigarettes have not been approved by Australian health authorities as a smoking cessation aid or nicotine replacements therapy. The devices and e-liquids are not regulated as a therapeutic good in Australia and manufacturing standards are not monitored. Although some electronic cigarette manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes can assist with quitting smoking, the evidence is limited and there are very mixed opinions amongst health experts. Some studies show no reduction in tobacco smoking rates for those also using e-cigarettes and other studies have shown they may assist people to quit, however the likelihood of quitting with the electronic cigarette is similar to using nicotine replacement therapy products or quitting cold turkey. Some people use both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes; a recent UK study found that 80% of people using e-cigarettes continued to smoke tobacco cigarettes

Debate continues between those in the tobacco prevention area who believe that e-cigarettes should play a role in assisting smokers quit and those who campaign to ensure these devices are banned in Australia due to the risk of them acting as a 'gateway' to smoking. Australia continues to have one of the lowest smoking rates, particularly for school-aged children world-wide and smoking is increasingly seen as an anti-social activity. Unfortunately vaping is being seen on American TV programmes and comedy shows, and hundreds of videos have been uploaded to YouTube of 'vaping tricks' increasing the visibility and attractiveness of something that looks like smoking. The research in this area is mixed and difficult to interpret, some studies suggest vaping is replacing rather than encouraging tobacco smoking amongst young people and other studies suggest that those who experiment with vaping are most inclined to be risk-takers who will also experiment or take up smoking too.

Should it be proved eventually that vaping does not lead to smoking, with adolescents, nicotine has negative effects on the developing brain and negative health effects have been demonstrated for all ages relating to inhaling aerosol chemicals. The long term effects of exposure to the inhaled substances at the level found in electronic cigarettes is unknown. Although vaping is less harmful than smoking, not vaping is less harmful still.

Lisa Damour has written an excellent article in the New York Times, How to Talk With Teenagers About Vaping  ( February 2018) for parents wishing to have some strategies to use when discussing e-cigarettes with their children.

For those seeking to reduce or cease tobacco smoking see for reasons to quit, strategies to get started and the various quitting methods available and methods for staying quit.

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