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Nicotine e-cigarettes laws are changing

5 May 2021

If you currently use nicotine e-cigarettes, you need to be aware that from 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to legally buy these products from overseas websites without first talking with a GP and getting a prescription. The main reason a GP may provide a prescription is for the purposes of smoking cessation.

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

So, what products are we talking about?

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigs, are products that heat a liquid ('juice') to make vapour for inhalation ('vaping').

The products captured by the changes include:

  • nicotine e-cigarettes
  • nicotine vaping products (also known as eJuice, vape juice, eLiquid)
  • novel nicotine delivery systems, such as heat-not-burn tobacco products.

Products not captured by the changes include:

  • nicotine replacement therapies, such as sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums
  • e-cigarette products that do not contain vaporiser nicotine.

What laws are changing?

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.

Why are these changes being made?

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.

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 e-cigarettes or 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. A doctor can provide advice about suitable options, which may include nicotine e-cigarettes or other over-the-counter, prescription, or non-medicine options.

What will my doctor need to do?

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.  

What if my doctor won't prescribe nicotine e-cigarettes?

We are working closely to ensure that doctors are aware of the changes and have the relevant information and tools to support you.

It is possible that your usual doctor may not be willing to prescribe nicotine e-cigarettes, however, they may be able to provide you with a local referral.

Where will I be able to buy nicotine e-cigarettes?

There will be two main ways to obtain nicotine e-cigarettes 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.

Be aware that apart from pharmacies dispensing nicotine e-cigarettes to patients with a prescription, it is illegal for any other Australian retailers, including vape stores, to sell nicotine e-cigarettes or nicotine vaping products. Vape stores will still be able to sell flavours and non-nicotine e-cigarettes, 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 you are travelling into Australia from overseas, you may bring nicotine e-cigarettes 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?

New regulations will set out rules for nicotine vaping products, such as e-liquids. These regulations will include rules about what information is needed on the product's label, child resistant packaging and any ingredients that are not allowed.

Because there are no TGA-approved nicotine vaping products, the proposed rules would allow most nicotine vaping products that have been approved in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada to be prescribed.

Further information