Vaping & E-cigarettes

Vaping in smoke-free places is not prohibited by the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990. However, individual organisations can ban the use of e-cigarettes as part of their own smokefree policies.

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Electronic cigarettes and vapourisers


Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) are electrical devices that heat a solution (or e-liquid), which produces a vapour that the user inhales or ‘vapes’. The ingredients of the liquid may vary but, currently, most e-liquids contain propylene glycol and flavouring agents. Some e-liquids contain nicotine.


E-cigarettes come in a range of styles, from devices that look similar to traditional cigarettes (first generation or cig-a-like) to refillable-cartridge ‘tank’ systems (second generation) to highly advanced appliances with larger batteries that allow the power to be adjusted to meet an individual’s specific vapour requirements (third generation).


Second and third generation e-cigarettes generally deliver more nicotine than first generation e‑cigarettes.

 Vaping products

Risks with using e-cigarettes

There is evidence that e-cigarettes pose fewer health risks to smokers who switch completely from tobacco smoking to e-cigarette use. Tobacco smoking, even at a reduced level, remains harmful.


Short-term use of e-cigarettes has been associated with mild adverse effects such as headaches, dry mouth or throat, and throat or mouth irritation. The health risks associated with the long-term use of e-cigarettes are unknown. It is only known that the risks of smoking are likely to be much greater. It’s important to remember that less harm does not mean harm-free.


Some e-liquids contain nicotine. For smokers, the nicotine in e-cigarettes poses little danger, however, in excessive amounts it can be lethal, especially for children. Nicotine products should be kept out of reach of others, particularly children.


Use of e-cigarettes for stopping smoking

There is a good rationale for people to use e-cigarettes to help them stop tobacco smoking as e‑cigarettes can provide nicotine, which is what people desire from smoking.


Research into the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation is growing, but the findings from these studies are somewhat mixed and the quality of the evidence is low overall. This is an active area of research and more findings will become available over the next few years.


At this stage, the Ministry of Health does not have enough evidence to recommend e-cigarettes, confidently, as a smoking-cessation tool. Smokers should use approved smoking-cessation medicines, such as NRT, and seek behavioural support from stop-smoking services to support them to stop smoking.


Legislation covering e-cigarettes

The Medicines Act 1981 and the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (SFEA) regulate the sale, advertising and use of e-cigarettes and the nicotine liquids used with e-cigarettes.


Nicotine is a scheduled substance under the Medicines Act. It is illegal to sell an e-cigarette (with or without nicotine) while making a therapeutic claim (e.g. claims to help smokers quit), unless the product has been approved for that purpose by Medsafe. To-date, no company has applied to have an e-cigarette approved as a stop-smoking medicine.


Nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and e-liquid are tobacco products, regulated under the SFEA, if they are manufactured from tobacco.


The SFEA prohibits the sale of tobacco products for oral use (other than smoking). Products containing nicotine derived from tobacco fall within this definition and the sale of these products is prohibited.


In addition, products that look like a tobacco product or smoking pipe or can be used to simulate smoking (toy tobacco products) cannot be sold to a person under 18 years, even if they do not contain nicotine.


People can import up to three months’ supply of nicotine-containing products for their own use, but cannot sell or supply these products to anyone else.


Vaping in smoke-free places is not prohibited by the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990. However, individual organisations can ban the use of e-cigarettes as part of their own smokefree policies.