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Nicotine vaping laws are changing

3 September 2021

From 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to legally buy nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine, from overseas websites without first getting a prescription.

Learn more about the changes and what you'll need to do.

So, what products are we talking about?

Nicotine vaping products contain nicotine salt or base in solution and are heated using a vaping device to make aerosol for inhalation ('vaping').

The products captured by the changes include:

  • nicotine e-cigarettes
  • nicotine pods
  • liquid nicotine (also known as eJuice, vape juice, eLiquid).

Products not captured by the changes include:

  • nicotine replacement therapies, such as sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums
  • vaping products that do not contain nicotine.

These changes will not affect heat-not-burn tobacco, and many other tobacco products, that are only to be imported for commercial or personal use with a permit from Australian Border Force. A valid doctor’s prescription will continue to be required to access these products domestically.

What laws are changing?

From 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to buy or import 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.

This will make the law applying to importation of 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.

Why are these changes being made?

There has been a significant increase in the use of nicotine vaping products 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 vaping products 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 vaping products while allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation on their doctor's advice.

Read more about why the decision was made.

What will I need to do differently?

From 1 October 2021, it will be illegal to buy nicotine vaping products from overseas websites (as well as locally) without a doctor's prescription.

Your first step will be to book an appointment with a doctor to discuss your individual circumstances. They will discuss the various options available to help you quit smoking, including prescription medicines, nicotine replacement therapies and support services. You can also phone the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit Now website.

If you have tried multiple smoking cessation treatments with little success, your doctor may provide a prescription for medically supervised access to nicotine vaping products.

What will my doctor need to do?

There are currently no approved nicotine vaping products 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 vaping products if you intend to use the Personal Importation Scheme to buy the products from an overseas website.

What if my doctor won't prescribe nicotine vaping products?

It’s important that you seek nicotine and smoking cessation counselling from your doctor.

Just like combustible cigarettes, these products contain nicotine which is addictive and harmful. They should not be your first choice when trying to quit smoking.

It is possible that your usual doctor might think nicotine vaping products may be suitable for you, but feel that it would be preferable to provide you with a local referral to someone with more experience prescribing these products.

Where will I be able to buy nicotine vaping products?

There will be two main ways to obtain nicotine vaping products if your doctor gives you a prescription:

  • filling your prescription at a pharmacy (either a physical community pharmacy or an Australian online pharmacy)
  • importing from overseas websites using the Personal Importation Scheme.

Apart from pharmacies dispensing nicotine vaping to patients with a prescription, it is illegal for any other Australian retailers, including vape stores, to sell nicotine vaping products. Vape stores will still be able to sell flavours and non-nicotine vaping products, or, separately, devices.

If you are using the Personal Importation Scheme, you can order a maximum of 3 months supply at one time and a maximum of 15 months supply in a 12 month period. You should arrange for a copy of your prescription to be enclosed with the package the product is sent in. Australian Border Force (ABF) officials can stop your import at the Australian border if they suspect that it is an unlawful import.

If you are travelling into Australia from overseas, you may bring nicotine vaping products for personal use if you have a prescription and meet the other requirements for the traveller's exemption.

How do I know what I'm buying?

There are no nicotine vaping products that have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA does not assess the quality, safety or efficacy of unapproved goods.

Products purchased from Australian pharmacies must meet the requirements of our standard for unapproved nicotine vaping products. The standard includes rules about what information is needed on the product's label, child resistant packaging, the nicotine concentration of the product and ingredients that are not allowed.

If you purchase from an overseas website, you should make sure the online retailer is reputable. We encourage you or your doctor to make enquiries with the online retailer about the ingredients, labelling and packaging, and manufacturing standards of the products. The ‘Health practitioners and consumers using the Personal Importation Scheme’ section of our guidance on the standard includes a list of questions you or your doctor could ask the online retailer.

Remember, it is illegal for any other Australian retailers, including vape stores, to sell nicotine vaping products.

Further information

Nicotine vaping products: Information for consumers

Nicotine vaping products: Questions and answers

Nicotine vaping products: News and updates

How to quit smoking or call the Quitline on 13 7848