Electronic cigarettes are causing confusion around the world as lawmakers struggle to decide the technology’s place in society. Australia is one of the countries where that confusion is at its height, with vaping laws that are already some of the strictest in the world and that vary more between the different states.
There has been a number of legislative changes over the past few years, mainly regarding the sale of e-cigarettes and where they can be used. In this guide we cover Australian vaping laws on a national and state level and look at how you can legally vape in Australia.
Are electronic cigarettes legal in Australia?
Yes, it is legal to own and use e-cigarettes and vape devices in Australia. There are restrictions on use in indoor and outdoor public places, in vehicles with a children under 16 years of age and how and where they can be promoted and sold, which are covered in the individual state guides below.
The main confusion regarding vaping in Australia is around E-Liquid. While 0% nicotine e-liquid is available to buy in local stores, the commercial sale of nicotine e-liquid is currently banned.
However, while nicotine e-liquid is not freely available on the high street, residents and visitor’s to Australia can still legally vape nicotine if they hold a valid prescription.
Is e-liquid containing nicotine legal for personnel use?
Yes, it is legal to posses and use nicotine e-liquid for personnel use, but you are required to have a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner.
Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 ’dangerous poison’, except when used in tobacco for smoking and medicinal nicotine replacement products.
If prescribed by a registered doctor, nicotine e-liquid is reclassified as a Schedule 4 product (prescription only) and is legal for ‘therapeutic use’ (eg to quit or reduce smoking or to prevent relapse).
Can I purchase e-liquid containing nicotine from overseas and have it shipped to Australia?
You can legally import nicotine from overseas to help you quit or reduce smoking under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Personal Importation Scheme.
The scheme covers residents of all Australian states and allows for importation of 3 months’ supply at a time for personal use, up to a total of 15 months’ supply per year. You must have a prescription from a registered Australian doctor.
For more information regarding prescriptions, importing nicotine to Australia and what constitutes 3 months supply of e-liquids click the link below.
Related : Buying nicotine e-liquid guide
Are e-cigarettes banned in public places?
As a general rule, e-cigarettes can be used wherever smoking is not banned. As vaping laws have been modified over recent years, vaping has been Incorporated into existing smoking legislation. This means their use is prohibited in smoke-free area’s.
Smoke-free areas where people cannot smoke or use e-cigarettes are:
- All indoor public places
- Outdoor public places:
- Within 10 metres of children’s play equipment in outdoor public places
- Public swimming pools
- Spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas used for organised sporting events
- Public transport stops and platforms, including ferry wharves and taxi ranks
- Within 4 metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building
- Commercial outdoor dining areas
- Public transport, such as buses, trains, ferries
What is the legal age to vape in Australia?
The legal age to vape is 18. It is an offence to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 years old. It is also an offence for an adult to purchase a vaporiser for a minor.
Police have the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18.
New South Wales (NSW) Vaping Laws
Electronic cigarettes classification was updated in the Public Health (Tobacco) Amendment (E-cigarettes) Act 2015.
The national ban on selling or supplying nicotine liquids still applies but it is legal to import them for personal use, with a prescription. It’s also legal to use nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes, again provided the individual has a prescription from a registered doctor.
Vaping in indoor and outdoor public places is banned (see details below). Businesses and workplaces are free to develop their own smoke-free policies to restrict patrons and staff using e-cigarettes on their premises.
NSW restricts the sale of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to people under the age of 18 and it is also an offence to use e-cigarettes in cars with children under the age of 16.
As e-cigarettes are classed as tobacco products for the purpose of advertising, restrictions on ad’s, displays & promotions have been put in place – see retailers factsheet for more details. Retailers who only sell e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories are able to allow customers to vape within their store if they apply for special exemption.back to menu ↑
Victoria (VIC) Vaping Laws
Victoria has updated the Tobacco Act 1987 to regulate the sale, advertising and restricted places of use of e-cigarette products.
It’s legal to use non-nicotine electronic cigarettes, to sell devices and nicotine-free liquids and to import and use nicotine for personal use with a prescription.
The sale of e-cigarette products containing nicotine is banned under Victorian drugs and poisons legislation. Adults can continue to purchase and use non-nicotine e-cigarettes. They can be used in areas where smoking is not banned.
It is illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. Victoria has also limited advertising and promotion of vaping products – view the e-cigarette reforms factsheet here.
Legislation:back to menu ↑
Queensland (QLD) Vaping Laws
Queensland has a reputation for strict enforcement of laws related to vaping, however as the state government recently admitted, vapers are free to import nicotine e-liquids under the TGA Personnel Importation scheme.
This means liquid nicotine becomes a schedule 4 (prescription only medicine) and people are free to use, import, travel inter-state and abroad with liquid nicotine provided they have a prescription from a Australian registered practitioner.
Foreign visitors travelling to Queensland’s popular tourist destinations can bring nicotine e-liquids, but should have a prescription from a doctor in their home country.
E-cigarettes are classed as tobacco products under the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998. This means there are restrictions on where they can be used, such as hotels, clubs, outdoor pedestrian malls and all existing no-smoking indoor and outdoor places. For the full list check here.
The Tobacco Act makes it illegal to display or promote vaping products in retail premises. Non-nicotine vape devices can be sold but must not make therapeutic claims such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking’ .
Legislation:back to menu ↑
Tasmania (TAS) Vaping Laws
Tasmania is another state that has updated its laws to regard vaping the same as smoking. This means the same restrictions on use in smoke-free areas now apply to vapers.
Again vape stores cannot sell liquid nicotine, and are restricted on how they can advertise e-cigarettes. It is legal to use and import nicotine liquid with a prescription from an Australian doctor (or a doctor in your country if you are visiting Australia).
It should be known that although it is legal the department of health advises against using nicotine liquids due to lack of assessment and approval at national level.
For more information on smoke-free areas in Tasmania click the links below. They include certain public events, public swimming pools and between the flags at a beach, any work vehicle with another person in it, within 10 metres of a childrens playground.
Legislation & Links:back to menu ↑
South Australia (SA) Vaping Laws
Electronic cigarette legislation has recently been updated in South Australia. Changes to the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 bring in increased fines (up to $20,000 for a first offence) for any business caught selling vape products to a person under 18 years.
Businesses are now required to hold a Retail Tobacco and E-Cigarette Merchant’s Licence and from 1st October 2019 will no longer be able to sell online.
Additional rules for retailers include a ban on providing free samples, prizes, gifts and displaying e-cigarette products at the point of sale.
The new law introduces on the spot fines of $105 for using electronic cigarettes in smoke-free areas, such as –
- enclosed public places, workplaces and shared areas, including inside a retail shop;
- motor vehicles if a child under the age of 16 years is present;
- under covered public transport areas;
- near children’s playground equipment; and
- outdoor dining areas and other outdoor areas that have been declared smoke-free.
South Australia – New e-Cigarette Law Fact sheet
Western Australia (WA) Vaping Laws
Western Australia is one the strictest out of all the states when it comes to the selling of vape devices.
Electronic cigarettes are classed as products which mimic smoking under the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006; that means it’s illegal to sell them. At first this rule was only applied to vape devices that looked like cigarettes, and more advanced devices were allowed, but recently courts have decided that it’s the way they’re used that mimics smoking and not the size or shape.
It’s legal to use e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine. WA vapers are still allowed to import nicotine for personal use and can legally buy e-cigarettes from other Australian states.back to menu ↑
Northern Territory (NT) Vaping Laws
A recent amendment to the Tobacco Control Act 2002 means the situation for vapers in the Northern Territory is changing from 1 July 2019. The NT Government will start to regulate e-cigarette products in the same way as tobacco products.
Vapers will now be restricted where they can legally vape, including all smoke-free areas and in a car with a child under 16 years.
Retailers will be required to hold a Tobacco Retail Licence and retail employees must be over 18 years old to sell vape products .
It is legal to use nicotine e-liquid in vape devices, providing a person holds a valid prescription from a registered Australian doctor.
Legislation:back to menu ↑
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Vaping Laws
The laws about vaping in the ACT are fairly typical of most states. Vaping is classed the same as regular cigarettes and so there are restrictions on where they can be used and sold. Vaping is not allowed anywhere smoking is banned.
E-cigarettes with nicotine can be used legally with a prescription from a registered doctor. It is also legal to import liquid nicotine if the person holds a valid prescription.
Vaping advocacy and vape laws
So obviously there’s a fair range of laws across the country when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping.
The baseline is that because nicotine is classed as a Schedule 7 poison in Australia, it’s illegal to sell it except as a licensed medication.
That means disposable e-cigarettes or cartridges that contain nicotine are not for sale right across the country, but nicotine free ones and refillable devices can be sold unless state law band them.
It is legal to import nicotine liquids for personal use (with a prescription from a registered medical practitioner), so that’s what most Australian vapers do.
E-Liquid is easy to find from suppliers in the US, New Zealand, or from Chinese manufacturers. Many people also order high-strength nicotine base and mix it with nicotine-free liquids.
It’s still a frustrating situation though, because while real cigarettes are heavily restricted they’re still much more available than a safer alternative.
There are a lot of people with a strong anti-vaping agenda though, so nobody can relax about this.
There will be attempts to tighten the further laws, either from Canberra or at state level, and vapers are going to have to fight this as hard as they can.
As we state in the article the legislation around vaping is constantly changing, so we advise you check for up-dates to to law on the relevant state and federal websites. The information provided by here cannot be considered as binding legal advice.