E-cigarettes are a tool to help you quit smoking. They produce a heated vapour that you inhale, which is why using an e-cigarette is called vaping. Vaping may help some people quit smoking cigarettes, but it's not harmless, so if you don't smoke, don't start vaping.
Key points about e-cigarettes and vaping
- Vaping products are a less harmful alternative to smoking for people who are looking to quit the habit and become smokefree.
- Vaping is not harmless, so only do it to help you to quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start vaping.
- It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s, vaping is banned in legislated smokefree areas and most advertising and sponsorship of vaping products is not allowed.
- If you use vaping to help you quit smoking, stop tobacco smoking completely because even low rates of tobacco smoking are harmful.
- Only some vaping liquids have nicotine in them. Smokers who switch to vaping with nicotine-containing liquids are more likely to quit than those who vape with non-nicotine-containing liquids.
- Don't vape if you are pregnant. The liquid heated to produce the vapour in e-cigarettes contains chemicals that may harm your unborn baby.
- Vaping products and nicotine e-liquids are not subsidised, but if you are vaping to quit, Quitline will support you with a plan to help beat the smoking addiction.
Image source: Vaping vs smoking Health Promotion Agency, NZ
Is vaping safe?
Although more research is needed into the long-term effects, we do know that the risks of smoking are likely to be much greater than the risks of vaping. That means it's better to switch from smoking to vaping, but if you don't smoke, don't start vaping.
There are side effects to vaping. Use of e-cigarettes can cause headaches, dry mouth or throat, and throat or mouth irritation and eye irritation.
Avoid vaping if you are pregnant
The vapour contains cytotoxic (harmful to cells) and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals that may pose long-term risks, especially to women who are pregnant. The effects of vaping during pregnancy on feotal development have not been sufficiently studied. However, research from animal studies suggests it may be associated with some harm. Smoking should also be avoided during pregnancy.
Don't vape around children
Even though the nicotine in e-cigarettes poses little danger for adult smokers, it can be lethal (cause someone to die) if taken in large amounts. So, it’s important to keep e-cigarettes and e-liquids somewhere that children can’t reach.
Is vaping legal?
Vaping products manufactured from tobacco and heated tobacco products can be legally sold in New Zealand. However, under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 (the Amendment Act) most advertising of these products is banned and it is illegal to sell them to young people under the age of 18.
The Amendment Act strikes a balance between ensuring vaping products are available for smokers who want to switch to a less harmful alternative, and ensuring these products aren’t marketed or sold to young people.
The Amendment Act does this by regulating the safety of vaping products and placing controls on the marketing, advertising and promotion of vaping products.
Under the Amendment Act, you are not allowed to vape:
- inside workplaces (with limited exemptions)
- at schools, early childhood education and care centres
- on aircraft carrying passengers domestically for hire or reward
- on passenger service vehicles such as buses, trains, taxis and rideshare services
- in booking areas, passenger queuing areas, passenger waiting rooms, and passenger lounges within any enclosed travel terminal
- in any part of a casino, restaurant or licensed premises that is not an open area.
Is vaping an effective way to quit smoking?
There are a number of different ways to quit smoking: cold turkey (just stopping completely), nicotine replacement therapies, other stop smoking medications or vaping.
No vaping device has yet been approved as an official stop-smoking medicine, but it is a much less harmful way of delivering nicotine than burning tobacco. Vaping has helped many people quit smoking and is a legitimate way to become smokefree. A recent study shows that vaping is almost twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapies in helping smokers quit.
If you decide to use vaping to quit smoking:
- stop smoking completely
- vape with nicotine-containing liquids
- reduce the amount of nicotine in the vaping liquid over time
- keep getting behavioural support, such as through Quitline
- aim to stop vaping over time.
Vaping – the do's and don'ts
If you or someone you know has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaping product, you should report it to the retailer where you bought the product, and the New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre as soon as possible.
This will help the Vaping Regulatory Authority monitor the safety of notifiable products on sale in New Zealand.
Support for quitting smoking
Quitline 0800 778 778 for phone, online or text support.
Learn more about vaping
Bust the myths – take a quiz on vaping Ministry of Health, NZ
Vaping facts Ministry of Health, NZ
Learn about vaping Smokefree NZ
Why quit smoking? Health Navigator
E-cigarettes and vaping Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ
- Encouraging smoking cessation BPAC, NZ, 2014
- Smoke and mirrors – is vaping useful for smokers who cannot quit? BPAC, NZ, 2018
- Position statement – vaping products Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018
- Hajek P, Phillips-Waller A, Dunja Przulj D. A randomized trial of e-cigarettes versus nicotine-replacement therapy N Engl J Med 2019; 380:629-637