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Nicotine vaping products: Information for consumers

17 September 2021

This page provides an overview of how consumers can legally access nicotine vaping products to help quit smoking, where appropriate.

Nicotine vaping products require a prescription

From 1 October 2021, consumers will require a prescription for all purchases of nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine. This includes products purchased both in Australia and from overseas.

These regulatory changes balance the need to prevent adolescents and young adults from taking-up nicotine vaping (and potentially smoking), while enabling current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation with appropriate medical advice. Nicotine vaping products can only be legally used by the person named on the prescription.

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

Watch this video to learn more about the changes and how you can legally access nicotine vaping products:

 
Regulatory changes to importing nicotine vaping products
Download our consumer fact sheet on the regulatory changes.

Speak to your doctor about quitting smoking

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

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

What your doctor may need to do

There are currently no nicotine vaping products approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Medicines not included on the ARTG are known as ‘unapproved’ medicines. There are established pathways for legal access to unapproved nicotine vaping products, with a doctor’s prescription.

If a doctor determines that a nicotine vaping product is suitable for your needs, they may need to apply to the TGA for access to the unapproved product before they give you a prescription.

You will always need a prescription from your doctor to legally access and import nicotine vaping products in Australia. However, your doctor does not need to apply to the TGA for access if you intend to use the Personal Importation Scheme to import a 3-month (or less) supply of nicotine vaping products (see below).

If you want to obtain nicotine vaping products from a local community pharmacy or Australian based online pharmacy, your doctor will need to apply to the TGA for authority to prescribe unapproved products, through either the Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber scheme.

List of Authorised Prescribers of unapproved nicotine vaping products

Authorised Prescribers of unapproved nicotine vaping products are registered doctors who have TGA authority to prescribe these products. Any registered doctor, such as your GP, can apply to the TGA to become an Authorised Prescriber of unapproved nicotine vaping products using a simplified online form.

Prescriptions from Authorised Prescribers can be filled at an Australian community or online pharmacy or using the Personal Importation Scheme.

The TGA has released a list of Authorised Prescribers of unapproved nicotine vaping products who have consented to have their name and consulting location published. There are additional Authorised Prescribers who have not consented to have their name published.

Obtaining nicotine vaping products

There are 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.

Be aware that apart from pharmacies dispensing nicotine vaping products to patients with a prescription, it is illegal for any other retailers, including vape stores, in Australia to sell nicotine vaping products.

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.

The flow chart below illustrates the steps involved in legal access to nicotine e-cigarettes in Australia.

flowchart including the steps for dispensing prescription e-cigarette nicotine

Filling your prescription at a pharmacy

You can fill your prescription for a nicotine vaping product at your local pharmacy.

If you intend to fill your prescription at a pharmacy in Australia (in person or online), your doctor will need to be an authorised prescriber or have applied to the TGA through the Special Access Scheme B. Australian pharmacies will only be able to dispense a product that matches your prescription.

Products purchased from Australian pharmacies need to meet all of the requirements of the TGA’s new standard for unapproved nicotine vaping products. These products should have appropriate labelling, child-resistant packaging, and meet the requirements in the new standard relating to ingredients.

Using the Personal Importation Scheme

You can order the nicotine vaping products prescribed by your doctor from an overseas online retailer using the Personal Importation Scheme.

Under 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.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officials can stop your import at the Australian border if they suspect that it is an unlawful import. You should arrange for a copy of your prescription to be enclosed with the package the product is sent in to prevent the package being held at the border.

If there is no prescription enclosed in the package, the ABF will refer the import to the TGA for assessment. The TGA will then contact you to ask for a copy of your prescription. If you do not provide a copy of your prescription, the TGA can request that the ABF seize and forfeit (destroy) the goods. You may also face penalties for importing a prescription medicine without legal authority.

If you need to import more than a 3 month supply in a single order, your doctor will need to apply to the TGA for approval through the Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme before they give you a prescription.

Products purchased from overseas are subject to some, but not all, of the requirements under the TGA’s new standard for unapproved nicotine vaping products, but the TGA cannot enforce the requirements in the new standard against overseas retailers.

If you are considering importing products under the Personal Importation Scheme, you are encouraged to confirm with the overseas retailer if the product meets the applicable requirements in the new standard and also has child-resistant packaging, appropriate labelling and manufacturing controls. Our Guidance for Therapeutic Goods (Standard for Nicotine Vaping Products) (TGO 110) Order 2021 and related matters includes a list of questions you or your prescriber might want to ask the overseas retailer.

Report side effects and problems

We strongly encourage consumers and health professionals to report any suspected side effects related to nicotine vaping products.

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.

Seek urgent medical attention for suspected poisonings

Nicotine vaping products can have toxic and sometimes severe effects if ingested or through exposure to the skin or eyes. Please seek urgent medical attention if you think that you, or anyone else, may have been exposed to or ingested a nicotine vaping product. Emergency services can be contacted by calling 000 and the Poisons Information Centre can be contacted by calling 131 126.

Reporting perceived breaches or questionable practices

We encourage you to report any perceived breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 or questionable practices in relation to the import, manufacture, supply, export or advertising of nicotine vaping products to the TGA. This includes the sale of nicotine vaping products by a retailer other than a pharmacist (e.g. by a vape store).


Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra