In this section
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered
devices that come in many forms. They all heat liquids, called e-liquids, into
an aerosol that users breathe in. They may contain nicotine, flavourings and a
range of harmful and toxic chemicals. Many e-liquids come in flavours that are
attractive to young people, such as mango, lime and mint. The e-cigarette heat
may also produce toxic substances.
They are also known as e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery
systems (ENDS), electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS), alternative
nicotine delivery systems (ANDS), personal vaporisers, e-hookahs, mods, vape
pens, vapes and juuls (pronounced ‘jewels’).
Using e-cigarettes is often called ‘vaping’. It is sometimes
referred to as ‘juuling’.
E-cigarette devices come in many different shapes and sizes.
They can look like traditional cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some look like everyday
items commonly used by young people, such as pens or memory sticks (USBs). Some
are even disguised as medical devices or concealed within clothing.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly
addictive especially for teens. E-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid may contain
nicotine, even if they have been labelled ‘nicotine free’. One e-liquid pod can
contain as much nicotine as a packet of cigarettes.
Nicotine exposure during the teenage years can harm brain
development, which continues until about age 25. It can impact learning, memory
and attention, and increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. Young
people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to go on to use regular
E-liquids can poison children and adults through swallowing
or skin contact. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include sweating, dizziness,
vomiting and increased heart rate.
E-liquids can also be a danger to young children if inhaled,
swallowed, or spilled on the skin. A young child can die from very small amounts
of nicotine. The effects of nicotine poisoning can come on very quickly. If you
think your child may have been exposed to nicotine, you should seek medical
attention or call an ambulance immediately.
Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused some fires and explosions, which exposes the user to the risk of serious injury and burns.
Young people who use
e-cigarettes containing nicotine can become addicted. The more frequently someone uses e-cigarettes,
the more their brain and body gets used to having nicotine, and the harder it
is to go without it. When someone stops using, the nicotine level in their body
drops, which may cause unpleasant physical symptoms, and a strong urge to vape.
This is nicotine addiction.
If you answer yes to any of these questions below, you may be addicted to nicotine:
When you haven't used e-cigarettes for a while do you:
Nicotine withdrawal occurs when someone stops using e-cigarettes and the body and brain must adjust to going without nicotine. The withdrawal symptoms can come on quickly, may be uncomfortable and trigger cravings for nicotine. Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has
not safety tested e-cigarettes or e-liquids, so they should not be considered a
safe product. These products are not regulated in Australia and are often
purchased online, meaning they can be made anywhere, by anyone and contain
If you’re worried about your child, or if your child needs support to quit vaping, it’s a good idea to see your GP.
Young people can also call Quitline to receive multisession, individually tailored behavioural support provided by skilled cessation counsellors. Quitline referrals can be made online at the Quit Centre or by phone from anywhere in Australia on 13 QUIT (13 78 48).
Too much nicotine from e-cigarettes can cause nicotine poisoning. If you are concerned about your child, please call the Victorian Poisons Information Line on 13 11 26.
The Victorian Poisons Information Centre (VPIC) has information on what to do when someone has been poisoned, overdosed or made a mistake with their medication. When you call the VPIC, trained staff will give you first aid information, and tell you if you need to call an ambulance or refer you to a doctor for treatment.
As a parent and caregiver, you have an important role in protecting children from e-cigarettes.
The best way to protect your children is to never smoke or vape in the house, car or other places where there may be children nearby. Passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour can be damaging for children and young people.
In most Australian states and territories, it is illegal to use e-cigarettes in cars with children under the age of 16 present.
Parents should learn about e-cigarettes. It’s important to talk to your teen about the health risks of e-cigarettes. Many teenagers are under the misconception that e-cigarettes are safe. It is helpful to know what the different devices look like and the different words young people may use to describe using e-cigarettes. This will help you to talk about e-cigarettes with your teen.
Finally, if you are an e-cigarette user, always keep e-cigarettes and e-liquids locked away and out of reach of children.
Talking with teens about risky behaviours is an important way for parents to help keep them safe. Parents are already good at talking to their teens about alcohol, smoking and drugs. E-cigarettes should be included in the conversation.
The earlier and more often you speak with young people about e-cigarettes, the more likely they are to listen. It’s important for parents to educate themselves, so they know the facts and what to say when the topic comes up.
Finally, young people are more likely to use smoking products if others around them do. Parents can lead by example by not using e-cigarettes at all, especially when children are around.
Do e-cigarettes contain nicotine?
Yes, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. E-cigarette liquid may contain nicotine, even if it has been labelled ‘nicotine free’.
Are e-cigarettes and e-liquids safe?
No. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not safety tested e-cigarettes or e-liquids, so they should not be considered a safe product. In some countries, people have died due to lung injury caused by using e-cigarettes.
Developed by The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll, Respiratory and Adolescent Medicine Departments. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed May 2023
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.