young people and vaping: what you need to know 

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Regardless of if you’re for it or against it, vaping is a very real part of our lives.

Recent changes to legislation mean that you can no longer legally gain access to vapes without a prescription, and conversations around health risks, going cold turkey and addiction are all around us.  But there are also mental health impacts associated with vaping. So, what are they? And what exactly is the low down on how to quit? Don’t worry, we’ve got the facts for you! 


So what exactly is vaping?

Vaping is when you breathe in a mist made by an electronic device called a vape or e-cigarette. These vapes have batteries inside that heat up liquid to make the mist you breathe in. The mist usually has nicotine, chemicals that aren't good for you, and flavours. Even vapes that say they're nicotine-free can still have nicotine in them. Some vapes you can use once and throw away when they're empty or the battery dies. Others you can refill and use again. Some people buy pre-filled cartridges or bottles of liquid to refill their vapes. 


What are the effects of vaping?

The aerosol or mist that is breathed in often contains nicotine, a stimulant drug.  Nicotine speeds up your brain and central nervous system and makes you feel like you have more energy. It can also affect the brain so that you feel “good” after vaping. You might be thinking “well that doesn’t sound too bad”, but there are serious health risks associated with nicotine and vaping: 

  • Addiction: most vapes contain nicotine, a drug that’s highly addictive. This may make it hard to stop vaping. You don’t have to vape every day to get addicted.  

  • Anxiety and depression: Nicotine can make anxiety and depression worse. It also affects memory, concentration, self-control and attention, especially in developing brains. 

  • Sexual health challenges: there is some evidence to suggests that vaping can cause sexual dysfunction in men.  

  • Sleep problems: vaping with its nicotine might make it harder to fall or stay asleep.   

  • Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals: vaping may contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer, but the full extent of the risks is still being studied.  

  • Lung damage: vaping can harm your lungs by causing irritation, inflammation, and damage to lung tissue, leading to breathing problems and increasing the risk of lung diseases. It’s also probable that vaping causes other effects on our health that we don’t know about yet. Vaping hasn’t been around that long so not all the health risks are known.  

How do vapes affect my mental health? 

Vaping can impact mental health in various ways, like feeling pressured by friends to vape and worrying about fitting in with what's seen as normal. Some people start vaping to cope with stress or anxiety, but it can actually make these feelings worse over time. Getting hooked on vaping, particularly if it involves nicotine, may lead to moodiness or trouble focusing when trying to quit. Also, seeing posts on social media that portray vaping as cool or trendy might make someone feel inadequate if they don't fit that image. So, vaping doesn't just affect the body—it can also influence how we feel about ourselves and our connections with others. 


Reasons to quit vaping?

  1. Improve your health: Quitting may help prevent future addiction to nicotine and other drugs. It may also reduce the effect of chemicals on the growing brain and the risk of cancer and lung disease. 

  2. Improve your wellbeing: Quitting can help improve your mood, help you focus when learning and may reduce the risk of challenges like managing impulses in the future.  

  3. Financial impact: Vaping can be costly over time, and quitting could free up funds for other necessities or enjoyable activities. 

  4. Physical activity: Vaping may lead to lung inflammation, making it more challenging to excel in sports or engage in physical activities. 

  5. Harmful chemicals: Vape liquids often contain harmful chemicals, posing risks to both users, their lungs, and the environment when exhaled.



What can help you quit? 

Feeling ‘off’ when you stop vaping is totally normal. You might feel restless, anxious, cranky, have trouble sleeping, or get headaches. This is your body's way of missing the nicotine from vaping. You might really want to vape again to make those feelings go away. 
Quitting vaping or suddenly stopping vaping might seem tough, but with the right support and strategies, you can do it. Here are some tips to help you along the way: 

  1. Waiting (Delay): When you feel like vaping, try waiting a little bit before you do. Start with a short wait and try to make it longer each time. 

  2. Finding other things to do (Distract): Keep busy with other activities so you're not thinking about vaping. This could be anything you enjoy, like playing a game, going for a walk, or hanging out with friends. 

  3. Making different choices (Decide): Remember why you want to quit and think about the good things that will happen when you do. Then, choose not to vape, even if you really want to. It's all about making the right decision for yourself. 

  4. Get support: Let your family and friends know about your plan to quit vaping and how they can help you. 

  5. Learn coping skills: Practice deep breathing and challenge unhelpful thoughts that make quitting seem impossible. Find new routines to replace vaping habits. 

  6. Accept slip-ups: If you start vaping again, it's okay. Don't be too hard on yourself. Use it as a learning experience and keep trying to quit. 

  7. Every attempt counts: Each time you try to quit, you're making progress towards being vape-free. Keep going, and don't give up! 

Stopping suddenly or going cold turkey, for whatever reason can be challenging. You can also speak to your GP for support with managing withdrawals or cravings.  


Getting support

If your vaping is starting to affect things that matter, like your mental health, wellbeing or your friendships, it can be a good idea to talk to someone about your options, such as different ways to reduce or stop your use. Whatever you decide, headspace can help. For more information, find your nearest headspace centre or access online and phone support through eheadspace.

Other useful resources 

While the internet is full of information, not all of it is reliable. If you're interested in finding out more about something, remember to make sure you check out trustworthy sources like headspace, or the Australian Drug Foundation has useful information about alcohol and other drugs.



The headspace Content Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.   

Last reviewed  03 April 2024  

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2023. Vaping (e-cigarettes). 

Blaha, J. (2024). Five Vaping Facts You Need to Know. John Hopkins Medicine.

Grando SA. Connections of nicotine to cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer. 2014;14(6):419-29.

Marques, P., Piqueras, L. & Sanz, MJ. An updated overview of e-cigarette impact on human health. Respiratory Research 22, 151 (2021). 

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