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 very complicated legal environment for vaping.
Australia Commonwealth regulation of nicotine
Under the regulation for poison, 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 or 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.
State and Territory Laws
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 Tobacco Control Legislation Amendment Bill passed the Assembly in February with regulation due to take effect in July 2019. This will restrict vaping and vaping products in the same way as tobacco in terms of sale, age limits on purchase, display and promotion of vaping products and use in public places.
No relevant legislation, however, the Tobacco Control Legislation Amendment Bill passed the Parliament in November with regulation due to take effect in March 2019.