Vaping has been recommended as a possible aid for smokers looking to quit cigarettes but doctors say caution is still needed. 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners guidelines has been updated with new advice on how to replace a smoker’s reliance on nicotine and calls for new subsidies.

Doctors advised that while there was no official standard for what goes into e-cigarettes, vaping involves fewer toxic chemicals and carcinogens than cigarettes.

Researchers said e-cigarettes could therefore be used as a second line of defence for those looking to quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are still ranked low down the list of nicotine therapy treatments by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, with patches and gum treatments preferred

Nicholas Zwar, who chairs the guide’s advisory group, said the lack of tested and approved e-cigarettes meant there were other alternatives preferred for countering smoking.

Those alternatives include using nicotine gums and patches – accompanied by behavioural support from a patient’s doctor.

But Professor Zwar said it could be cautiously considered as a support therapy and added research showed two forms of nicotine replacement were better than one.

‘The therapies that have been tested and been through therapeutic approval would be the first choice,’ Professor Zwar told The Sydney Morning Herald.  

‘If you are a health practitioner the problem is you do not know exactly what is going to be in any e-cigarette product – it is not standardised.’

The second edition of the RACGP’s Supporting Smoking Cessation report published in December 2019 lists nicotine-containing e-cigarettes as their 15th and final recommendation for fighting a smoking habit.

E-cigarettes have been suggested as a potential aid in kicking a smoking habit as it contains fewer carcinogens than regular cigarettes, according to updated guidance (stock image)

RACGP president Harry Nespolon added access to subsidised nicotine therapy may help patients to beat their smoking habit.

He said the most hardcore of smokers were from lower socio-economic backgrounds and it was important they could access more cheaper therapy.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidised by the Australian government only allows one treatment at a time.

Researchers in the UK found heavy smokers who switched to e-cigarettes started to see their risk of heart disease fall within a month.  

The scientists stressed non-smokers should steer clear of e-cigarettes, because the devices come with their own harms.

But for ‘chronic’ tobacco smokers – those who have smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day for two years – switching resulted in an almost immediate benefit.

What is an e-cigarette and how is it different to smoking tobacco?

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows users to inhale nicotine by heating a vapour from a solution that contain nicotine, propylene and flavourings.

As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke like a traditional cigarette.

But while they have been branded as carrying a lower risk than cigarettes, an increasing swell of studies is showing health dangers.

E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, but the vapor does contain some harmful chemicals.

Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical which makes it difficult for smokers to quit.  

Nearly three million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, and more than nine million Americans.


1. Standard e-cigarette

Battery-powered device containing nicotine e-liquid.

It vaporizes flavored nicotine liquid.

2. Juul

Very similar to normal e-cigarettes but with sleeker design and a higher concentration of nicotine.

Thanks to its ‘nicotine salts’, manufacturers claim one pod delivers the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

It is composed of an e-cigarette (battery and temperature control), and a pod of e-liquid which is inserted at the end.

The liquid contains nicotine, chemicals and flavorings.

Like other vaping devices, it vaporizes the e-liquid.

3. IQOS by Philip Morris

Pen-shaped, charged like an iPod.

Vaporizes tobacco.

It is known as a ‘heat not burn’ smokeless device, heating tobacco but not burning it (at 350C compared to 600C as normal cigarettes do).

The company claims this method lowers users’ exposure to carcinogen from burning tobacco.

Australian doctors ‘cautiously’ recommend taking up vaping to quit smoking

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