Key messages 

  • Results from the 2022–2023 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed that the proportion of people using e-cigarettes daily in Australia has increased substantially, from 0.5% (an estimated 100,000 people) in 2016 to 3.5% (an estimated 700,000 people) in 2022–2023. 
  • The proportion of people smoking tobacco daily has fallen from 12% (an estimated 2.4 million people) in 2016 to 8.3% (an estimated 1.8 million people) in 2022–2023. 
  • The population groups most likely to be using e-cigarettes were different to those most likely to smoke tobacco between 2016 and 2022–2023:
    • Use of e-cigarettes is particularly high among younger people, with 9.3% of people aged 18–24 and 6.5% of people aged 25–29 using them daily in 2022–2023. Conversely, daily tobacco smoking is highest among people aged 40–49 (11%) and 50–59 (12%) in 2022–2023. 
    • People living in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic areas are most likely to smoke tobacco, while people in the most advantaged areas are most likely to use e-cigarettes.


Electronic cigarettes or vapes (referred to collectively as ‘e‑cigarettes’) are personal vaping devices where people inhale aerosol rather than smoke. The inhaled aerosol usually contains flavourings and a range of hazardous chemicals; it may also contain nicotine, even if labelled ‘nicotine free’ (Department of Health and Aged Care 2023).

While the adverse effects of long-term e-cigarette use are currently unknown, there are well-documented short-term effects, including e-cigarette associated lung injury, cough, throat irritation and nausea. The adverse effects of using e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can also include inhalation toxicity (including seizures), nicotine dependence and increased heart rate and blood pressure (Banks et al. 2023).

The use of e-cigarettes (commonly referred to as vaping) was first identified in Australia around 2007, with evidence of use increasing since 2016 (AIHW 2024b; Wilkins et al. 2024).

This increasing use of e-cigarettes has occurred in an environment of steadily declining levels of tobacco smoking in Australia, a trend seen since the early 1990s (AIHW 2023).

Tobacco and e-cigarette control in Australia

The tobacco control measures of all Australian governments and public health organisations have been key to Australia’s success in tobacco control. In recent decades, Australia has progressively implemented a comprehensive suite of tobacco control measures, including:

  • increasing excise
  • running social marketing campaigns
  • introducing plain packaging
  • issuing graphic health warnings
  • prohibiting tobacco advertising and promotion
  • providing support for people who smoke to quit (Department of Health and Aged Care 2024). 

Work is ongoing, with new regulatory measures, public health campaigns and expansion of smoking cessation services being introduced in 2024 (The Hon. Mark Butler MP 7 December 2023). 

In partnership with state and territory governments, the Australian Government is taking action to reduce e-cigarette use through stronger legislation, enforcement, education and support. These changes are being implemented over the course of 2024, with the intention of prohibiting non-therapeutic e-cigarettes in Australia. This effort has included:

  • banning the importation of disposable single use e-cigarettes
  • stopping the personal importation of e-cigarettes
  • banning the importation of non-therapeutic e-cigarettes (that is, e-cigarettes not intended to help with quitting or reducing the use of regular cigarettes)
  • imposing requirements on therapeutic e-cigarette importers and manufacturers, including compliance with minimum product standards.

A prescription is required to access e-cigarettes containing nicotine to help in stopping tobacco smoking. Further reforms are likely to be introduced later in 2024, including the introduction of pharmaceutical style packaging and quality and safety standards for all therapeutic e-cigarettes. See Vaping hub | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for more information.

Findings presented in this article

This article summarises select findings from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2022–2023 on:

  • use of e-cigarettes in Australia among people aged 14 and over
  • comparisons between trends in e-cigarette use and recent trends in tobacco smoking. 

It also compares e-cigarette use by older and younger age groups, and across socioeconomic areas. 

The long-term impacts of e-cigarettes on the health of people who use them, and the impacts of policy measures aimed at reducing the use of e-cigarettes, require more data before both of these impacts can be fully understood.

Data on e-cigarette use were collected in late 2022 and early 2023, prior to the new restrictions coming into effect in 2024. At the time, in most jurisdictions, it was legal to sell and purchase e-cigarettes that did not contain nicotine, and to import and use e-cigarettes containing nicotine with a prescription.

E-cigarette use in Australia

How many people are using e-cigarettes in Australia?

E-cigarette use has increased substantially in recent years. In 2016, an estimated 100,000 (0.5%) people in Australia were using e-cigarettes daily (AIHW 2024a). By 2019, this number had doubled to an estimated 200,000 (1.1%) and, by 2022–2023, had increased to an estimated 700,000 (3.5%). In 2022–2023, almost half of people currently using e-cigarettes (49%) used them every day, and 68% at least weekly. 

How many people are smoking tobacco in Australia?

Over the same period, consistent with the steady declines in smoking seen since 1991, the number of people smoking tobacco fell. An estimated 2.4 million (12%) people were smoking tobacco daily in 2016, but, by 2022–2023, that number had fallen to an estimated 1.8 million (8.3%). In 2022–2023, most of those people currently smoking tobacco did so every day (79%), and 90% smoked at least weekly. 

Relationships between tobacco smoking and using e-cigarettes

Tobacco smoking and use of e-cigarettes have often been considered in the same context, either with use of e-cigarettes being an introduction to smoking, or by people using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. According to Australian guidance on the use of e-cigarettes to manage nicotine dependence (RACGP 2024), e-cigarette products that contain nicotine may improve quit rates for smoking cigarettes; however, there is currently not enough evidence for it to be prescribed as a first-line treatment. In contrast, evidence suggests that people who have never smoked tobacco who use e-cigarettes are around 3 times as likely to start smoking cigarettes as people who have not used e-cigarettes (Banks et al. 2022).

Point-in-time survey data such as from the NDSHS cannot be used to provide strong evidence on the use of e-cigarettes to help in stopping tobacco smoking or as a gateway to smoking. The NDSHS did show, however, that regardless of the potential relationships between tobacco smoking and use of e-cigarettes, the population groups most likely to be using e-cigarettes were different to those most likely to smoke tobacco. 

E-cigarette use and tobacco smoking – by age group

Among people aged 14 and over in 2022–2023, older people were much more likely to smoke tobacco than younger people, but younger people were the most likely to use e­­­-cigarettes. Figure V.1 shows smoking and e-cigarette use among 2 different age groups: people aged 18 to 24 (the most likely to use e-cigarettes) and people aged 50 to 59 (the most likely to smoke). 

Figure V.1: While tobacco smoking is lower among people aged 18 to 24, e-cigarette use is increasing much faster among this age group than those aged 50 to 59

Daily tobacco smoking and daily e-cigarette use among people aged 18 to 24 and 50 to 59, 2001 to 2022–2023

This figure consists of 2 line charts that compare the daily use of e-cigarettes and smoking tobacco for 2 age groups: 18–24 and 50–59. The charts show that people aged 18 to 24 had a higher proportion of 
 daily e-cigarette use than people aged 50 to 59.

The results in Figure V.1 are examples of the broader trends seen in 2022–2023:

  • Most age groups experienced a substantial decline in tobacco smoking between 2019 and 2022–2023, including people in both the 18 to 24 and 50 to 59 age groups.
  • In contrast, while the use of e-cigarettes increased for most age groups over this same period, the increase was much more substantial among younger age groups. For the first time in 2022–2023, young adults aged 18 to 24 were more likely to use e-cigarettes daily than they were to smoke tobacco daily. 

E-cigarette use and tobacco smoking – by socioeconomic area

In this article, the Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD) is used to classify individuals according to the socioeconomic characteristic of the area in which they live. It scores each area by summarising attributes of the population, such as income, educational attainment, unemployment rate, and jobs in skilled or unskilled occupations (ABS 2021).

The areas are grouped into quintiles (fifths). The 20% of areas with the greatest overall level of socioeconomic disadvantage are described as the ‘lowest socioeconomic areas’. The 20% of areas with the greatest overall level of socioeconomic advantage – the top 20% – are described as the ‘highest socioeconomic areas’.

Note that the IRSAD reflects the overall or average level of advantage and disadvantage of the population of an area; it does not show how individuals living in the same area differ from each other in their socioeconomic position.

People living in the most advantaged socioeconomic areas were the most likely to use e-cigarettes daily, while people in the most disadvantaged areas were the least likely to do so (Figure V.2). The trend is the opposite for tobacco smoking, however, which has been more common among people living in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic areas since before 2010, and less common among people living in the most advantaged areas (AIHW 2024c). 

These trends show that use of e-cigarettes has been highest among groups that have been less likely to smoke tobacco since at least 2016. 

Figure V.2: Use of tobacco cigarettes increased with socioeconomic disadvantage, while e-cigarette use increased with socioeconomic advantage

Daily use of regular cigarettes and e‑cigarettes by socioeconomic area, people aged 14 and over, 2022–2023

This vertical column chart shows that the proportion of people who currently use e-cigarettes but do not smoke was highest in the highest socioeconomic areas but lowest in the lowest socioeconomic areas.

* Estimate has a Relative Standard Error between 25% and 50% and should be interpreted with caution.

Source: NDSHS 2022–2023.

Future focus

This article reviews the recent rise in e-cigarette use and the variations across age groups and socioeconomic areas before the restrictions on the marketing, importation, and supply of e-cigarettes were implemented in 2024. More data are needed in the future to examine the long-term impacts of these policy changes on both e-cigarette and tobacco use. Further information on the long-term effects of e-cigarette use on individual and population health is also required.

Further reading

Related topic summaries