Australian study finds vaping products should be regulated

An Australian study published today highlights the importance of regulating vaping e-liquids. The study in the Medical Journal of Australia analysed ten 'nicotine-free' e-liquids and found six to be contaminated with trace amounts of nicotine.

According to Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn, chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), 'The contamination by nicotine was trivial, but it indicates poor quality control and production standards. These e-liquid solutions could have been mixed in someone's kitchen sink without any care or expertise, with the same utensils used to make nicotine e-liquid.'

'The findings support ATHRA's recommendation for e-liquid to be legalised and regulated so that quality and safety standards can be imposed.'

Currently, nicotine e-liquids for vaping are illegal and are not regulated. Most users purchase products illegally from the black market or from international websites without any assurance of quality or safety.

'This is putting consumers at risk' said Dr Mendelsohn. 'Who knows what is going into some products. Because they are illegal, there is no checking or quality control'.

The contamination with nicotine in these samples was trivial and is unlikely to have any significant biological or health effects. The nicotine levels averaged <0.1% across the ten samples, with the highest being 0.29% nicotine.

Smokers and vapers are used to much higher nicotine levels. The average nicotine concentration used by vapers is around 1.2%, although commercial products can be as strong as 5.9%.

The study also reported the presence of a number of other chemicals which are likely to be of minor importance to health, especially when compared to smoking.

‘The lack of regulation of e-liquids and vaping devices is putting Australians at risk’ Dr Mendelsohn said. ‘Prohibition isn’t working. We are calling on the government to legalise and regulate vaping products to give Australians the protection they deserve.’

Chivers E et al. Nicotine and other potentially harmful compounds in “nicotine-free” e-cigarette liquids in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 14 January 2019


Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn
Chairman, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney
M: 0415 976 783 | E:

What is ATHRA?

Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) is a registered health promotion charity established to reduce the harm from tobacco smoking in Australia. ATHRA aims to raise awareness of less harmful alternatives for adult smokers who are otherwise unable to quit. ATHRA’s broader goal is to encourage the complete cessation of tobacco smoking in Australia. For more information, visit

ATHRA is funded by unconditional donations from businesses and the general public. It does not accept donations from tobacco companies or their subsidiaries.

None of the directors has ever had any financial or commercial relationship with any electronic cigarette or tobacco company.

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