Electronic cigarettes

E-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 or ‘e-juice’) 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 about the potential risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes, and further research is required to enable their safety, quality and efficacy to be assessed. 

Statement from the CEO of NHMRC

On 25 March 2015, the CEO of NHMRC issued a statement on electronic cigarettes, to inform the Australian community about the current status of the evidence. 

NHMRC Funded Research

Since 2011 NHMRC has funded eight grants, committing nearly $6.5 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.