What are vapes?

Vaping products, or ‘vapes’, vary in design and operation. They typically include a battery, heating element, and a cartridge or refillable tank containing a liquid. They work by heating liquid into a fine spray of chemicals that are then inhaled into the lungs.

Vapes and vaping liquid, sometimes called ‘vape juice’, are notorious for having incomplete labelling. This makes it hard to know how many harmful chemicals you’re putting into your body or exposing those around you to.

Even though vapes may be labelled nicotine-free, most vapes have been found to contain nicotine.

Some of the other potentially harmful ingredients found in vaping liquid include:

  • formaldehyde, arsenic and lead—toxic chemicals that may lead to serious health issues, including cancer
  • vegetable glycerin — a liquid derived from vegetable fat, safe in food but not safe when inhaled
  • propylene glycol — a solvent used in fog or smoke machines
  • anti-freeze — typically used in the coolant of a car
  • polyester (plastic) compounds
  • volatile organic compounds — found in paint and heavy-duty cleaning products
  • flavouring that’s safe in food and drinks but not safe when inhaled.

Get the truth about vapes from Dr Karl

Are vapes harmful?

Scientists are still learning about the harms of vaping products, which means they can't be considered safe. Below are some of the ways vapes are harmful to your health and the health of others.

Vapes negatively impact your health

The chemicals found in vaping liquid can increase your risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer. An example of this is EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury).

Vaping can cause poisoning, seizures, burns, and breathing difficulties. Long-term, there’s substantial evidence that some of the chemicals in vape aerosols can:

  • permanently scar your lungs
  • cause DNA damage if present in harmful volumes in the body.

The safest option is not to vape at all.

Vapes deliver unreliable doses of nicotine

The amount of nicotine delivered by vaping products depends on:

  • the type and size of the device
  • the nicotine concentration of the liquid
  • how you inhale or puff.

Even vapes labelled ‘no nicotine’ can deliver high levels of nicotine, making it easy to get addicted without even realising it.

Vapes may encourage smoking

Vaping products potentially increase nicotine addiction or tobacco product use and may normalise smoking. People who vape but haven’t smoked cigarettes are around 3 times more likely to take up cigarettes and other substances than those who don’t vape.

Passive smoking

There is evidence that vaping indoors increases the amount of tiny chemical particles in the air. This means people who don’t vape, such as children in the home, can inhale these chemicals.

Improper labelling and unsafe packaging


  • have the potential to leak their contents
  • don’t have child safety measures
  • often have incomplete ingredient labelling
  • often don’t list if nicotine is included or the strength of nicotine if it is.

Poisoning risk

Vapes present a significant poisoning risk due to nicotine toxicity. Nicotine is a dangerous poison and can cause serious injury and death.

Vapes are particularly dangerous to younger children who might be attracted by the colourful packaging or flavouring. Even very small amounts of liquid nicotine can be fatal to children.

Poisoning can cause agitation, nausea and vomiting, a racing heart, difficulty breathing, seizures, or even death.

What to do if you think a child or someone may have been poisoned

Vapes as a quit smoking tool

Vaping products aren’t approved as quit-smoking aids in Australia. There are safer ways to quit smoking, supported by decades of research.

Learn more about quitting methods

Is vaping legal in Queensland?

Vaping products containing nicotine are illegal, unless on prescription.

Vapes are also subject to the same laws as cigarettes or tobacco products, so where you can legally smoke vapes and cigarettes is the same. This also means vapes are subject to the same restrictions around where and how they can be sold, and who they can be sold to.

Learn more about smoking and vaping laws

Ready to quit vaping?

Quitting is possible with the right support.

Whether you vape, smoke, or use both, we have all the support you need to quit. Get ready to quit with the tools and information right here at Quit HQ.

You can call Quitline on 13 78 48, or request a call back at another time. Quitline counsellors can provide tailored advice and genuine support on your journey to quit vaping.

Get support from Quitline

Our support services


Quitline is a telephone service dedicated to helping Queenslanders quit smoking. Contact Quitline on 13 78 48, or request a call from Quitline below.

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Last updated: July 2023