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Nicotine e-cigarettes: Information for pharmacists

4 May 2021

This page provides an overview of what pharmacists need to know in relation to dispensing nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or e-liquids in Australia.

Nicotine e-cigarettes require a prescription

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

From 1 October 2021, consumers will need a valid Australian medical prescription to access nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine liquids in Australia. This will provide an opportunity for consumers to receive appropriate medical advice on the use of, and risks associated with, these products. Certain other novel nicotine delivery products will also require a prescription, including heat-not burn tobacco.

Nicotine replacement therapies (including sprays, patches, lozenges and chews) that do not require a prescription will continue to be available from pharmacies and some retail outlets.

Nicotine e-cigarettes are 'unapproved' products

Generally, therapeutic goods (such as medicines, medical devices and biologicals) must be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before they can be lawfully imported into, supplied in, or exported from Australia.

There are currently no TGA approved nicotine e-cigarettes on the ARTG. Medicines not included on the ARTG are known as ‘unapproved’ medicines. There are established pathways for legal access to unapproved nicotine e-cigarettes, with a valid medical prescription.

If a medical practitioner determines that nicotine e-cigarettes are a suitable smoking cessation option for their patient, the medical practitioner can apply to the TGA for authority to prescribe the unapproved product through the Authorised Prescriber Scheme or the Special Access Scheme (SAS). Depending on state or territory restrictions, other prescribing health practitioners may also be able to apply under the SAS.

Recent changes to the Authorised Prescriber scheme mean that medical practitioners may apply for Authorised Prescriber approval to prescribe nicotine as an aid to stop smoking. A simplified nicotine-specific online form is available on the Authorised Prescriber dashboard of the SAS & Authorised Prescriber Online System. For the five year duration of the approval no further applications or permissions are required.

Dispensing nicotine e-cigarettes

Pharmacists can dispense a prescription for nicotine e-cigarettes with evidence of a SAS or Authorised Prescriber approval.

Pharmacists can also extemporaneously compound as long as they meet Pharmacy Board of Australia requirements.

Pharmacy wholesalers can apply for an import declaration from the Australian Border Force under the following pathways:

  • Import Declaration (N10)
  • Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration.

The flow chart below illustrates the steps leading up dispensing a prescription for nicotine-cigarettes.

flowchart for pharmacists showing steps leading up to dispensing a prescription for e-cigarette nicotine

Report side effects and problems

We strongly encourage consumers and health professionals to report any suspected side effects related to e-cigarettes.

The TGA has an important role in monitoring the safety of 'unapproved' products. Reporting side effects and problems helps us to understand the safety of a product. We investigate significant safety concerns as part of ensuring product safety in the Australian community.