E-cigarettes are a tool some people use to help them quit smoking. They produce a heated vapour that you inhale instead of smoking a cigarette. This is why using an e-cigarette is called vaping. To work out whether this might help you, it’s useful to know more about them.
- E-cigarettes produce a vapour that you inhale. The liquid heated to produce the vapour comes in different flavours and contains a chemical called propylene glycol. It sometimes has nicotine in it, but not always.
- If you don’t smoke, don’t start vaping. The health risks of vaping long term are not known, so it’s important to only do it to help you to quit smoking. Vaping is less harmful than smoking. This is because the health problems from smoking mainly come from inhaling tobacco smoke, not from the nicotine in the cigarette.
- Even though some people use vaping to help with quitting smoking, it is not a proven smoking cessation method, so is not subsidised. Evidence shows that approved aids to quit smoking, such as nicotine-replacement patches, gum or lozenges, in combination with support such as Quitline, help the highest percentage of smokers to quit.
- Smokers who switch to vaping with nicotine-containing liquids are more likely to quit than those who vape with non-nicotine-containing liquids.
- If you do use vaping to help you quit smoking, it’s important to stop tobacco smoking completely because even low rates of tobacco smoking are harmful.
Are e-cigarettes safe to use?
Short-term use of e-cigarettes can cause headaches, dry mouth or throat, and throat or mouth irritation and eye irritation. The vapour that e-cigarettes produce contains cytotoxic (harmful to cells) and carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals that may pose long-terms risks to women who are pregnant.
Pregnant women should, therefore, avoid vaping. 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.
For other users, the health risks of using e-cigarettes long-term are unknown and the products are not regulated. It is only known that the risks of smoking are likely to be much greater. However, 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.
- Position statement – vaping products Ministry of Health, NZ
- E-cigarettes and vaping Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ
Are e-cigarettes legal to use?
Vaping products manufactured from tobacco and heated tobacco products can be legally sold in New Zealand. However, under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 advertising of these products is banned and it is illegal to sell them to young people under the age of 18.
The smoking ban in indoor workplaces only applies to smoked tobacco and does not apply to vaping or other products that are not smoked. Individual employers and business owners can decide whether they want to include vaping in their smokefree policies.
Are e-cigarettes effective?
The research into the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping with quitting smoking has mixed findings and the quality of the evidence is low. This means that the Ministry of Health does not recommend e-cigarettes as a smoking-cessation tool. Instead, the Ministry recommends you use approved smoking-cessation medicines, such as nicotine replacement therapy and get help with breaking your smoking habit from services such as Quitline.
However, some people find e-cigarettes helpful. If you do, it’s important that you stop smoking completely and that you:
- 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
Quitline 0800 778 778 for phone, online or text support.
- E-cigarettes Ministry of Health, NZ, 2017
- E-cigarettes Quitline, NZ
- Smoking cessation BPAC, NZ, 2014
- Smoke and mirrors – is vaping useful for smokers who cannot quit? BPAC, NZ, 2018
- Vaping, smokeless, included heated tobacco Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018