Vapes are electronic devices designed to deliver vapourised liquids into your lungs when you breathe in.

Vapes aren’t water. The main ingredient in vapes is propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine or glycerol, and they often also contain nicotine, flavours and other chemicals. Vapes may contain harmful chemicals that aren’t listed on the pack.

The biggest misunderstanding about vapes is that they are harmless compared to cigarettes. This is not true. Vapes are not safe.

Last updated: 04 May 2022

Do you know what you're vaping?

  • Many vapes contain nicotine making them very addictive.
  • The nicotine in 1 vape can = 50 cigarettes.
  • If you vape you are 3 times as likely to take up smoking cigarettes.
  • Vaping has been linked to serious lung disease.
  • Vape aerosol is not water vapour.
  • Vapes can contain the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray.

Vapes are designed to be appealing to you

The flavours (such as watermelon, grape, caramel, bubble-gum, vanilla and mint) and colourful packaging used for vapes make them appealing. Many vapes also contain nicotine, which you can become addicted to very quickly.

Tobacco companies are continuously looking for new customers. Vapes are a new way to get young people addicted to nicotine, which is often difficult to quit.

Most young people do not vape

Vaping may seem popular, but in fact, research shows that 4 in 5 young people do not vape.

You might think vaping is harmless, but it isn’t, and the serious consequences of vaping are just starting to emerge.

Any take up of vaping by young people is worrying.

Nicotine is harmful for your young brain

Nicotine is a drug that is often in vapes and is highly addictive for young brains. It can cause long-lasting negative effects on brain development.

Nicotine changes the way brain synapses are formed in young people.

This can harm your ability to pay attention, learn and affect your mood and memory.

Risks to your mental and physical health

Vapes may expose you to chemicals at levels that have the potential to cause negative health effects. Vaping can impact your lungs and fitness. It can also leave you at increased risk of depression and anxiety. Vaping has been linked to serious lung disease. Importantly, many of the long-term harms of vaping are still unknown.

You’re not vaping water. When you inhale from a vape you can be exposed to:

  • the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray
  • toxins such as formaldehyde and heavy metals
  • ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • flavouring chemicals such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to serious lung disease)

Vapes have even been known to explode causing serious burns.

Selling vapes to young people is illegal

t is illegal for anyone to sell any vape to people under 18 years of age, including retailers such as tobacconists, convenience stores and service stations. It is also illegal to sell vapes to friends or contacts under 18 on social media.

You may have heard that nicotine vapes are available with a prescription from a doctor. This is only for people over 18 years as a tool to help quit smoking. Even then, doctors will explain the risks of using vapes to patients.

There are a number of retailers who might illegally sell you vapes. This is a crime. If you think someone is selling vapes illegally, you can report this to NSW Health via its website or call the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412.

The signs you are addicted to vaping

How do you know you are getting hooked on vaping?

Nicotine addiction from vapes is the same as for smokers.

This can mean feeling irritable or anxious, as well as craving to vape.

You may also experience a lack of concentration when you can’t vape and you can have trouble sleeping.

Misleading and dangerous labelling

Vaping products are often not labelled or are incorrectly labelled.

Most vapes with labels that claim to be nicotine free contain nicotine and a lot of other chemicals..

They just don’t put it on the pack.

Good reasons to not vape

You don’t want vaping to come between you and your friends.

Have a reason or two that you can tell your mates why you don’t want to vape.

For example, “Vaping is not for me because I don’t know what’s in it” or “I care about my health and fitness and don’t want vaping to ruin it” or “Vapes may taste or smell good, but I’ve heard they can contain nicotine and I don’t want to get hooked like a cigarette smoker”.

Do you know what you’re vaping? Get the evidence* and facts at

*All statements are backed by evidence which can be found on the website

Current as at: Wednesday 4 May 2022
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health