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Prescriptions now required to import nicotine vaping products

1 October 2021

Australian consumers now require a valid prescription from any of Australia's 100,000 medical practitioners to import nicotine vaping products purchased from overseas websites.

Consumers should ask overseas retailers to include a copy of their prescription with the order. Australian Border Force (ABF) officials can stop goods at the border that they suspect are unlawful imports and refer them to the TGA for further investigation. Nicotine vaping products may be seized if there is no prescription provided by the importer, or enclosed in the package, and the goods may be destroyed and the importer fined.

Consumers continue to require a valid prescription to purchase nicotine vaping products from Australia pharmacies. It remains illegal for Australian retailers (such as tobacconists, 'vape' shops and convenience stores) to sell nicotine vaping products to consumers.

The new requirements balance the need to prevent adolescents and young adults from taking-up nicotine vaping (and potentially cigarette smoking), while enabling current smokers to readily access nicotine vaping products for smoking cessation with appropriate medical support.

Smokers and users of nicotine vaping products are encouraged to make an appointment with their GP to discuss their smoking cessation options. While nicotine vaping products are not widely considered to be "first line" smoking cessation treatments, they may be a reasonable intervention for people who have tried other approaches without success.

There are three ways medical practitioners can prescribe the product:

  • any registered medical practitioner can prescribe up to 3 months' supply for the person to purchase from an overseas website through the Personal Importation Scheme, or
  • they can prescribe the product for dispensing by an Australian online or community pharmacy after obtaining TGA approval as an Authorised Prescriber or under the Special Access Scheme, or

It takes only a couple of minutes and is free to apply for approval as an Authorised Prescriber. The TGA publishes a list of Authorised Prescribers of nicotine vaping products on its website.

Medical practitioners also can provide face-to-face and telehealth nicotine and smoking cessation counselling services that are covered under new temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. There is no requirement for the patient to have an established clinical relationship with the medical practitioner.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has updated its guide on supporting smoking cessation to include additional information on nicotine vaping products. The TGA has also published practical information on the use of nicotine vaping products for smoking cessation. For more information, see the TGA's nicotine vaping products information hub.

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