Those weird rods, otherwise known as e-cigarettes, seem to have popped up everywhere recently. But what are they, and are they safe to use? This article covers the basics of what you need to know about the device.
What are they?
Vaping devices look and feel like a regular cigar, except they are battery operated, electronic devices. They work by heating up a liquid and turning it into a vapour which is inhaled. This vapour looks like smoke, but does not contain tobacco. The liquids typically contain flavourings such as bubble gum or fruit, though they are not very healthy. They tend to use artificial colours and flavours, as well as propylene glycol, metals and glycerine. They may contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance.
E-cigarettes come in a range of different designs. There are disposable minis, which are a lightweight model commonly found in convenience shops. For those who are regular users, rechargeable devices which come with a charger are a popular option. Vape pods are a slim model which work using a disposable pod, allowing for the device to be reused. For people that want something heartier, vape pens are similar in size to a cigar and provide a better experience than most smaller designs. And finally, there is the box mod, which is a favourite of people who are serious about vaping. These allow you to customise the style of your vape.
Are they legal?
The laws around e-cigarettes are a bit murky. Technically, it is illegal to buy, sell or own a device that contains nicotine in Australia, but many vaping fluids that contain nicotine sneak through anyway. It is legal to buy a vaping device as long as it does not contain nicotine. But retailers and wholesalers are not allowed to claim that vaping devices have therapeutic qualities, such as helping quit smoking. You’re also not allowed to use them in legislated no-smoking areas (in most states).
Are they bad for your health?
There is simply not enough research to say whether e-cigarettes are beneficial or harmful to health overall. They have not yet been thoroughly tested to prove their safety and efficacy. However, there is some evidence that they may cause harm. For example, there is some evidence that suggests a link between using the device and lung disease, though more research is needed. And while they don’t contain tobacco, the flavourings and chemicals they do contain may be harmful. There is concern that e-cigarettes may act as a “gateway” to real tobacco products.
But don’t they help you quit smoking?
There is limited evidence to suggest e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking, nor are they approved in Australia to do such a thing. There are plenty of other approved smoking cessation methods which work for many people, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). You may be able to get them over the counter at your local pharmacy. Consider using two forms of the therapy to get the best effect (e.g. gum and patches).
It is important to keep vaping liquids away from children, as nicotine is a drug and a poison which can be lethal if swallowed. Just a single teaspoon of the liquid can cause death in children. It can also get absorbed by the skin. If you think someone has been poisoned by nicotine liquid, seek medical aid immediately.
While trendy, e-cigarettes may pose a number of threats to human health, though more research is needed. Consider using another form of smoking cessation if you are trying to quit.