Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (called ‘e-liquid’) to produce a vapour that users inhale.  Although their composition varies, e-liquids typically contain a range of chemicals, which may include nicotine.

E-cigarettes are a topic of contention, with experts disagreeing about their safety and whether they can minimise harm to smokers or help them to quit smoking all together.  Concerns have also been raised about the potential for e-cigarettes to undermine existing tobacco-control measures, by renormalising smoking, or providing young people with an alternative entryway into nicotine addiction and tobacco cigarette smoking.

Safety and efficacy: CEO statement on E-cigarettes

The NHMRC CEO has issued a statement on e-cigarettes to help consumers and policy-makers to understand the current evidence for their safety and efficacy.

It concluded that 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 e-cigarettes to be assessed.

The Statement was issued on 3 April 2017, and replaces the 2015 CEO Statement, which has been updated to reflect recently published evidence.  

NHMRC funded research

NHMRC has funded 13 grants, committing over $12.6 million 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
  • uptake of e-cigarettes in children and adolescents 
  • potential impact of e-cigarettes on smoking uptake, and
  • effect of new media platforms on e-cigarette promotion and consumer behaviour.