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E-cigarettes and teens: what you need to know

Resources for parents, teachers and teens explaining the risks associated with e-cigarette use among teens:

E-cigarettes pose serious health risks to teens. Australian surveys have shown e-cigarette use among teens and young adults has increased over the past few years. There is also evidence to suggest young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes in later years. 

In an Australian survey of school students, around 14 per cent of students aged 12 - 17 years had used an e-cigarette (32% of these in the past month). Almost half (48%) of students who vaped had never smoked tobacco before trying an e-cigarette. Around a quarter of these students who had used e-cigarettes before ever smoking, reported later trying tobacco cigarettes.

Explore this page for further information, videos and resources:

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, also known as ‘vapes’, are battery operated devices that work by heating a liquid (or ‘juice’) until it becomes an aerosol that users inhale. Some people mistakenly believe the ‘cloud’ from vaping is a vapour, like steam. It is really an aerosol, a fine spray of chemicals that enter the body via the lungs, and small particles that can lodge in the lungs. Using an e-cigarette is commonly called ‘vaping’.

What's inside an e-cigarette?

There are no quality or safety standards for e-cigarettes nor nicotine-free liquids, meaning their manufacture, contents and labelling are unregulated. E-cigarettes can contain nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerine, and flavouringsHazardous substances have been found in e-cigarette liquids and in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes. These include: formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein, which are known to cause cancer. Some chemicals in e-cigarette aerosols can cause DNA damage.

It's also important to know most e-cigarettes and e-liquids that are labelled nicotine-free and available for sale in Australia do, in fact, contain nicotine. Nicotine is among the most addictive substances known. Nicotine can harm adolescent brain development and impair memory and concentration.

Are e-cigarettes legal?

Buying and selling an e-cigarette or any liquid that contains nicotine without a doctor’s prescription is illegal in Australia. In Victoria, it is illegal to sell an e-cigarette or a liquid intended to be used in an e-cigarette (even if it does not contain nicotine) to a person under 18 years.

What you can do

Here are some things you can do if you are concerned about a young person vaping:

  • Learn the facts
    Read through our fact sheets for parents and teachers and teens, as well as our myth busters.
  • Have a conversation
    Approach the conversation calmly, and ask questions. Try not to lecture or judge. The Royal Children's Hospital provides recommendations for parents on how to talk to teenagers about e-cigarettes. The Raising Children Network also offers resources on how to speak to your child about the use of alcohol and other drugs.
  • Call Quitline (13 7848) for free advice
    Quitline counsellors can answer any questions you may have about e-cigarettes and can help you think of ways to approach the conversation.

Resources for parents, carers and teachers

Watch as our experts explain the dangers of teen vaping and provide advice and information on what parents, carers and teachers can do to prevent teens from taking up vaping, as well as how to support teens who are vaping to stop:

E-cigarette fact sheet for parents, carers and teachers (downloads PDF):

E-cigarette factsheet for parents and teachers - image

Resources for teens

In this video, our experts explain the dangers of teen vaping and describe what you need to know about how the vaping industry is targeting young people:

Vaping and your health: fact sheet for teens (downloads PDF):

E-cigarette factsheet for teens

Mythbusting: e-cigarettes (downloads PDF):

Mythbusting: e-cigarettes

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Share these important messages across your social media channels. To download a set of infographics for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, click here ( folder).

For more information on e-cigarettes, read e-cigarettes: general information.

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