Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, electronic non-nicotine delivery systems, or ‘ENDS’) are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (called ‘e-liquid’) to produce a vapour that users inhale. Although the composition of this liquid varies, it typically contains a range of chemicals, including solvents and flavouring agents, and may or may not contain nicotine.
Electronic cigarettes are a topic of contention among public health and tobacco-control advocates, some of whom argue that they have the potential to minimise harm to smokers. Others argue that electronic cigarettes pose a threat to tobacco-control measures and that they should not be promoted as a ‘lower risk’ option for smokers, when their long-term safety is unknown.
There is currently insufficient evidence to support claims that electronic cigarettes are safe, and further research is needed to enable the long-term safety, quality and efficacy of electronic cigarettes to be assessed.
Statement from the CEO of NHMRC
On 3 April 2017, the CEO of NHMRC issued an updated CEO Statement on electronic cigarettes, to assist consumers and policy-makers in understanding the current evidence about the safety and efficacy of electronic cigarettes. The 2017 CEO Statement replaces the 2015 CEO Statement, to reflect recently published evidence.
NHMRC Funded Research
Since 2011 NHMRC has funded ten grants, committing over $8.5 million in funding for research into e-cigarettes to investigate the:
- efficacy of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, including amongst disadvantaged and vulnerable populations
- health effects of e-cigarettes
- potential impact of e-cigarettes on smoking uptake, and
- effect of new media platforms on e-cigarette promotion and consumer behaviour.