Australia has a strict regulatory environment for vaping with a complex mix of both Federal and State laws.
The Federal Government regulates the use of nicotine under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. While the States and Territories manage the laws governing the sale, age limits on purchase, display and promotion of vaping products and the use in public places, this has led to a complicated legal environment for vaping.
Under Australian poison regulations, the possession and use of nicotine for vaping is effectively banned.
Under Federal regulation, medicines and poisons are classified into schedules, which determine how they are regulated. Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 ’dangerous poison’. As such it is illegal to buy, possess or use nicotine for vaping without a prescription from a doctor. However, nicotine in tobacco and nicotine replacement products are exempt and freely available.
There are three main ways of legally acquiring nicotine e-liquid in Australia. All three require a prescription from a doctor.
A smoker can import three months’ worth of personal supply of nicotine from overseas under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Personal Importation Scheme.
An approved Australian pharmacy can prepare nicotine liquid for individual patients. This service is currently only available through Nicopharm.
By way of a nicotine-containing product approved by the TGA. There are presently no nicotine-containing e-cigarettes approved. The approval process is expensive and time-consuming and not practical for most vape manufacturers.
Few vapers use these methods, however, and although it is legal, few Australian doctors will prescribe nicotine due to the lack of official endorsement and knowledge about vaping.
Unfortunately, most users feel compelled to either import nicotine illegally without a prescription or purchase it from the unregulated black market.
Each State and Territory in Australia has different legislation. Usually, vaping falls under tobacco control laws rather than consumer products legislation. In February 2019, the Northern Territory Parliament was the last State or Territory to pass legislation to regulate vaping.
The States and Territories manage the laws governing the sale, age limits on purchase, display and promotion of vaping products and use in public places. There are serious penalties for acquiring, using and/or possessing liquid nicotine unless it is prescribed by a doctor to help you quit or cut down smoking.
The importation of e-cigarettes and e-liquids that contain nicotine or the purchasing of nicotine from overseas for personal therapeutic use is legal in Australia under the personal importation scheme in all states except Queensland where it is illegal to import e-liquid containing nicotine from overseas. It is worth noting though, that without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner that it is illegal to do so. If you are importing e-liquids or e-cigarettes containing nicotine from overseas the TGA requires you to lawfully comply with the following conditions, if you don’t comply with the following conditions you can potentially risk facing fines and customs confiscating your package:
As nicotine is listed under Poison Standard, the importer should possess a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.
The products can be imported for the therapeutic use of the importers or their immediate family.
The amount of nicotine e-liquids imported should not be more than 3-month supply. (there is currently no indicator as to what a 3 month supply is, however anything under 1000ml’s will most likely pass through customs)
The product should not contain any substance prohibited under Customs Act. (Nicotine is not prohibited under this act)
Nicotine e-liquids imported in a 12 month period should not exceed a 15-month supply.
You can legally import nicotine from overseas to help you quit or reduce smoking under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Personal Importation Scheme. You may import 3 months’ supply at a time for personal use, up to a total of 15 months’ supply per year. The law requires you to have a prescription from a registered Australian doctor. You are required to email a copy of your prescription to the vendor so it can be returned with your order. Keep the script at home, or as a photo on your phone in case it is required. However, the TGA warns that there may be risks in importing nicotine from overseas suppliers as quality cannot be guaranteed.
From 1 October 2021, the penalty for importing nicotine e-liquid without a prescription will be up to $222,000 under the Customs Act 1901. The offence carries 1,000 penalty points at $222 each.
From 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to buy or import nicotine e-cigarettes or nicotine vaping products from overseas websites without a valid doctor’s prescription. These changes reinforce the need to have a doctor’s prescription before purchasing nicotine e-cigarettes from any source.
From 1 October 2021, child resistant closures for nicotine vaping products will also become mandatory to reduce the risk to children of accidental ingestion.
This will make the law applying to importation of nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine vaping products consistent with existing state and territory laws regarding their sale – specifically that these products cannot be sold anywhere in Australia without a doctor’s prescription.
There has been a significant increase in the use of nicotine e-cigarettes by young people in Australia and in many other countries. Between 2015 and 2019, e-cigarette use by young people increased by 96 per cent in Australia. There is evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking in youth and exposure to nicotine in adolescents may have long-term consequences for brain development.
The changes strike a balance between the need to prevent young people from taking up nicotine e-cigarettes while allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation on their doctor’s advice.
There are currently no approved nicotine e-cigarettes on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). This means your doctor will either need to:
apply to the TGA for access to the unapproved product before they give you a prescription. We have a developed a simple application form for doctors to streamline this process; or
provide you with a script for a 3 month (or less) supply of nicotine e-cigarettes if you intend to use the Personal Importation Scheme to buy the products from an overseas website.
Source 2: https://sydneyvapeco.com.au/blogs/news/australian-nicotine-laws
Source 3: https://www.athra.org.au/vaping/the-law/
Source 4: https://www.tga.gov.au/blogs/tga-topics/nicotine-e-cigarettes-laws-are-changing