Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes and vapes, are devices that heat liquid, with or without nicotine, to create a vapour for inhalation. When exhaled, this vapour looks like smoke. The use of electronic cigarettes is referred to as ‘vaping’.
Traditionally, electronic cigarettes have been thought to be less harmful than cigarettes as they do not produce smoke. Contrary to popular belief, electronic cigarettes have been associated with a variety of other health effects including:
increased chance of myocardial infarction (heart attack)
thermal injuries and soft tissue facial injuries due to explosion
psychosocial effects due to addictive behaviour
A large proportion of people admitted to hospital with electronic cigarette associated lung injury have been admitted to intensive care, with a third of them requiring mechanical ventilation. Common symptoms have included:
shortness of breath
coughing or spitting up blood
abdominal pain and discomfort
fevers and chills
The liquids used in these devices contain various chemicals and flavourings. When inhaled during manufacturing processes, flavour agents such as acetyl propionyl and diacetyl have been shown to cause bronchiolitis. Furthermore, the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin containing liquids generate carbonyl compounds including acrolein, acetaldehyde, and formaldehydes when exposed to high heats. Research has implicated these compounds as the cause of airway tissue injuries.
Nicotine containing liquids are illegal in Australia. Accidental swallowing of nicotine containing liquids can be fatal. One teaspoon of nicotine containing liquid can cause permanent damage or death.
Call triple zero (000) if someone is showing any signs of serious illness including vomiting, drowsiness, seizures, or loss of consciousness.
Seek medical assistance immediately if you suspect poisoning, and call the Poisons Information Line on 13 11 26.