What are nicotine vapes?

Nicotine vaping products, also known as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, are devices that simulate the experience of smoking by producing an aerosol that is inhaled.

How do nicotine vapes work?

Nicotine vapes work by heating a liquid, which typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, and flavourings, to produce an aerosol (also known as vapour) that is inhaled by the user.

Nicotine vapes are designed to replicate the familiar hand-to-mouth inhale/exhale action of traditional cigarettes, which can aid in easing the transition away from smoking.

But luckily, that’s where the similarities end.

Are nicotine vapes safe?

Nothing is safer than breathing fresh air, but when considering whether or not nicotine vapes are safe, it’s important to compare them to smoking traditional cigarettes.

If you don’t currently smoke or have an addiction to nicotine, you should not use any nicotine-containing product, including nicotine vapes.

The long-term health effects of nicotine vaping are unknown. Nicotine vapes have not been approved as smoking cessation aids in Australia. These products are considered to be ‘unapproved’ therapeutic goods and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not evaluated them for quality, safety and effectiveness.

Nicotine vapes do not produce smoke or ash
, as they do not combust like traditional cigarettes. Instead, they’re heated to produce an aerosol that is inhaled.

Combustion in traditional cigarettes generates over 7,000 chemicals – 250 of which are known to cause serious harm, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Most of these chemicals are not found at all in high-quality nicotine vapessuch as those found in community pharmacies. Where they are found, they are in minimal amounts incapable of producing a toxic effect.

Ensure you use products from reputable providers such as pharmacies, as the level of these chemicals (and subsequent negative health effects) can vary greatly in lower-quality vapes, such as illegal disposables from the corner store.

Let’s look at the main differences between illegal vapes and responsible pharmacy NVPs.

Illegal vapes

Illicit NVPs (such as those in convenience stores and tobacconists) are imported under the radar, just like illicit tobacco and drugs, and are made as cheaply as possible for maximum profits.

Rather than developing them for smoking cessation, opportunistic manufacturers simply want you hooked on these products, and they accomplish this with their fruity flavours and extremely high nicotine content (proven to be up to 357mg per disposable).

These have also been found to contain cancer-causing nickel and lead and even traces of saliva.

Legal and responsible NVPs

NVP products sold in pharmacies are made under stringent pharmaceutical standards on the manufacturing process and ingredients, are toxicologically assessed for inhalation, are locally insured, and are specifically designed to help you stop smoking.

With a pharmacy NVP, you know exactly what you’re inhaling. Your GP can also ensure you’re using a tested and reliable product designed purely for smoking cessation.

Studies have also shown that they’re more effective than NRT – the latest Cochrane Review found high-certainty evidence that NVPs are more effective than NRT in helping people stop smoking.

What dangerous chemicals do vapes contain?

If you purchased your NVP from a pharmacy, you have nothing to worry about – you’re using a tool with every ingredient having been identified and comprehensively tested for inhalation safety.

An illegal vape purchased from your local tobacconist, however, is a very different story. As mentioned, illegal vapes can contain many unidentified chemicals that will harm your health.

How do I know the nicotine level I need?

This will depend on your previous nicotine consumption, which a GP can accurately assess with you. 

All pharmacy NVPs have a controlled level of nicotine, allowing GPs to prescribe an accurate dosage to help motivated smokers handle their withdrawals and cravings more effectively. 

Can vape juice go bad?

Can vape juice expire? Yes, it can.

Pharmacy NVPs clearly indicate the manufacturing period and expiration date of their products and cartridges. Your local pharmacy ensures they only provide products far away from the expiration date.

Also, pharmacy NVP cartridges will usually last you 1-3 days each, so it’s very unlikely you’ll reach the end of the 2 year expiration date.

Can vaping make you sick?

For first-time vapers (even if you’ve been smoking for decades) you might feel a little light-headed after your first time using a pharmacy NVP (much like the first time you had a cigarette). This will likely subside after a few uses.

If you bought an illegal vape from your local tobacconist, you may actually feel quite sick after using these, due to their incredibly high nicotine delivery and unknown chemicals.

These illegal NVPs contain as much as 357mg of nicotine in each disposable unit. They deliver a lot of nicotine to your system very rapidly, causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or even worse.

Can vaping trigger my fire or smoke alarm?

In most cases, a pharmacy NVP won’t trigger fire or smoke alarms as the amount of vapour exhaled is quite minimal. However, it’s still recommended that you use these outside or in well-ventilated areas.

Illegal vapes can produce very large plumes of vapour that could indeed trigger your fire or smoke alarms.

Can vaping cause a sore throat?

Even after smoking for years and finally quitting, vaping is a new sensation to your entire system. However, throat pain is more likely pronounced when you use illegal NVPs due to the unknown chemicals and nicotine levels they contain. 

Pharmacy NVPs on the other hand, are tested for inhalation safety and will likely have reduced to no throat irritation

However, if you feel anything strange after using your pharmacy NVP, you should inform your GP to ensure they can accurately evaluate any side effects you are feeling.

What are the short and long-term effects of vaping?

Some short-term side effects, as mentioned earlier, can include light-headedness, dizziness and nausea. In general, studies on the long-term effects of vaping are limited.

In most cases, GPs will not freely prescribe pharmacy NVPs for long-term (forever) use, as these products are made to help you move away from cigarettes, and then move away from vaping once you’re ready.

On the other hand, illegal NVPs that are accessible without a prescription and a GP’s guidance can be used and abused for longer, and these may have very detrimental long-term effects. 

Are vapes a gateway to tobacco use?

If you’re using pharmacy NVPs and are under a GP’s supervision in your quit journey, it will not be a gateway back into tobacco.

Will vaping cause cancer?

There’s no evidence linking NVPs to any form of cancer.

However, many health experts agree that illegal vapes containing high levels of heavy metals and toxins are very likely to cause adverse and potentially dangerous health effects.

It’s also important to know that nicotine is not the cause of any form of cancer and endangerment to the body, but it is a highly addictive chemical that draws many to the dangers of smoking and illegal vaping.

Where to buy high-quality nicotine vapes in Australia?

There are a number of options on where to buy nicotine vapes in Australia, but how do you know what you’re inhaling into your lungs was made with your health in mind? Here are your options:

  • Local pharmacies  ✓ trusted with medical support
    Over 2,200 pharmacies now stock trusted high-quality nicotine vapes from locally-insured pharmaceutical companies. Paired with ongoing medical support from pharmacists, they’re the obvious choice for those serious about quitting smoking.
  • Overseas import  potentially unsafe
    A popular option among the more ‘hobbyist’ vapers, with a wider range of DIY and flavours. But, no overseas supplier is locally-insured, and not all products are made to a high quality, focusing more on consumer marketing and profit margins.
  • Tobacconists / convenience stores  unsafe
    Low-quality disposable nicotine vapes are available illegally in many tobacconists and convenience stores. Stay away from these, as not only is their purchase and use against the law, they’re made as cheaply as possible and in horribly unhygienic environments.

With thousands of different options available worldwide from uninsured overseas suppliers with unknown quality standards, it’s important to stick with trusted sources like your local pharmacy.

How to get a nicotine vaping prescription

Nicotine vapes are not first-line treatments for smoking cessation. However, for people who have tried to achieve smoking cessation with approved pharmacotherapies but failed, nicotine vapes may be a reasonable intervention.

  • Do you currently smoke cigarettes?
  • Have you tried and failed with other first-line treatments such as NRT (patches, gums, sprays…) and/or medications (Champix, Zyban…)?

If so, you may be eligible for a nicotine vaping prescription. This solution will be at the discretion of your consulting doctor.

Option 1: Specialist telehealth (recommended)

We recommend booking a convenient phone consultation with a specialist TGA-approved authorised prescriber of nicotine, who will assess your particular situation, and if appropriate, may provide you with a nicotine vaping prescription.

Option 2: Visit your usual GP

It’s important to note that medical professionals must be registered as an Authorised Prescriber of nicotine before they can issue nicotine vaping prescriptions. Chat with your GP about nicotine vaping, and if required, they can register as an Authorised Prescriber here.