If you have landed on this page you may be in a similar position to me when I first started vaping; I used to smoke cigarettes, but eventually, the downsides of the habit caught up with me. I hated having to go outside to smoke, the smell started to bother others, and worst of all, the cost was just too much for me to afford.
When I discovered vaping, I was happy that some of my problems were solved, but the 0% nicotine e-liquid available in my local store didn’t satisfy my cravings. I knew other vapers were buying juice from overseas, but was it legal and could it be a reliable way to ensure I didn’t relapse in to smoking?. Here’s what I learned about importing nicotine liquid in to Australia….
Is it Legal to Import Nicotine in to Australia?
According to Australian law, it is legal to use, purchase, or possess liquid nicotine if you have a valid prescription. This means that a medical practitioner needs to say there is a medical reason that you should use liquid nicotine instead of a more traditional therapy for quitting smoking.
This is because nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 substance. Under Australian law, poisons and medicines are given a designation, or Schedule, based on the Poisons Standard‘s classification of them. The classification of nicotine as a Schedule 7 dictates that it is a substance that constitutes a “dangerous poison,” such as strychnine and arsenic.
There are exceptions to the classification of nicotine as Schedule 7 medicine, such as nicotine addiction recovery products (patches, gums & sprays) for medicinal purposes and the nicotine in some smoking tobacco. However, liquid nicotine is also an except item (schedule 4) if you have a valid prescription issued for the purposes of reducing or quitting smoking.
When you have a valid prescription for liquid nicotine, it is legal to import the Schedule 7 substance under the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) Personal Importation Scheme. Under this law, importing up to three months supply worth of liquid nicotine is permitted.
The Department of Health’s website states it is –
“lawful for people to import nicotine for use in e-cigarettes with a prescription for up to three months of personal therapeutic use under the TGA’s Personal Importation Scheme (PIS). Under this scheme an importer must hold a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner”http://www.health.gov.au
What is a Three Month Supply of E-Liquid Nicotine?
The amount of nicotine liquid necessary to last for three months will depend on the type of liquid.
What types of liquid are there?
Nicotine liquids are classified by their concentration, which can range from 3 mg/ml up to 24 mg/ml (milligrams per milliliter). While many users begin with a concentration of between 6 to 18 mg/ml, heavy smokers may be better served by the maximum concentration of 24 mg/ml. A properly licensed doctor can prescribe a three month supply, plus three repeats.
Once you have an e-liquid prescription their are different varieties to chose from.
Ready to Vape E-Liquids
One type of nicotine liquid to choose from is “pre-mixed.” This variety comes ready to be used, with the nicotine already combined with vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, and any added flavouring.
Typical use is 3-5ml per day, although some vapers use a lot more.
If a person is using 5 ml per day of premixed vape liquid with a concentration of 12 mg/ml, the prescription for a three month supply would be 500 ml of premixed 12 mg/ml vape liquid.
*Note: Pre-mixed E-juice is usually sold in the following range of strengths:
- 3mg (low)
- 6mg (medium-low)
- 12mg (medium)
- 18mg (medium-high)
- 24mg (high)
Some companies represent this as a percent per solution. For example, 1.2% instead of 12mg/ml. The amounts are the same, just displayed differently.
Mix Your Own E-Liquids
Another way that a patient may consume liquid nicotine is through a “mix your own” method.
In these cases, the individual will have 10% nicotine liquid imported, which is then combined with non-nicotine e-liquid that can be easily purchased locally in Australia.
If a person is using 5 ml per day of liquid they mixed to an ultimate concentration of about 12mg/ml, the three month supply for the prescription would be 20 ml of liquid nicotine at a concentration of 100mg/ml.
*NOTE: Mixing your own e-liquids an advanced process and is not not advised for new vapers
Pre-Filled Pods & Cartridges
In instances where the individual is using pre-filled cartridges or pods containing premixed nicotine liquid, the prescription will stipulate the concentration of the nicotine and the number of days.
For example, an individual who requires a concentration of 12mg/ml liquid nicotine a day, divided into four doses a day, so one pod would be needed for three days.
That is ten pods for a month (at 120mg/ml) per month, and would require 30 pods for the three month period (at 360 mg/ml)
Where to source Nicotine E-Liquids
When looking where to source nicotine, patients can order e-liquid from overseas websites in the US, UK or NZ under the TGA Personal Importation Scheme. Up to three months’ supply of nicotine at a time can be imported for a therapeutic purpose, such as smoking cessation. The nicotine prescription is retained by the user in case it is requested by authorities.
Or alternatively they can purchase liquid nicotine from an authorized Australian compounding pharmacy, such as Nicopharm. This is made possible through the “compounding exemption” contained in item 6 of Schedule 5 of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Regulations.
Nicotine E-Liquid Prescriptions
Australian doctors only have the ability to write a prescription for liquid nicotine under particular circumstances. For example, a doctor can write a prescription for liquid nicotine to help a person quit smoking. This is because there is enough scientific evidence to convince legislators that vaping can help people with successfully quitting smoking cigarettes, even when other methods of quitting have not been successful.
Where there is a therapeutic benefit for the patient, doctors can prescribe a three month supply of liquid nicotine, as long as the doctor fulfills their responsibility to inform the individual who is going to receive the prescription of the risks associated with the use of liquid nicotine.
There are some safe practices if you have a nicotine e-liquid prescription, including: In instances like this, it is essential that the prescription be written by an registered Australian doctor. You should also keep the hard copy in a safe place, such as a locked file cabinet. Lastly, you should make sure you take a photo of the prescription and save it to your cell phone’s memory.
How Does the Department of Health View E-Cigarettes?
The Australian Department of Health has issued its guidelines for liquid nicotine through the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum. This Forum is comprised of territory, state, and Commonwealth Ministers. The Department of Health’s official stance is that it does not consider e-cigarettes to be free from detrimental effects. The Forum relied on the scheduling legislation provided by the TGA, which classified liquid nicotine as a Schedule 7 substance.
Nevertheless, the positive effect of liquid nicotine is acknowledged by the Department of Health, and is recognized as preferable to the smoking of traditional cigarettes. As a result, while the sale of liquid nicotine without a prescription is not permitted due to the associated health risks, the Department of Health approves of using liquid nicotine for therapeutic purposes when it is properly prescribed for addiction to smoking cigarettes or consuming other nicotine containing products.
Read the Australian Government’s position on e-cigarettes document here
Do your own research. Protect your rights. Queensland Health admitted that it once held that it was illegal to import liquid nicotine into the Queensland even when citizens had a right to do so. Queensland Health incorrectly stated that the state law (HDPR 1966) superseded the Commonwealth legislation TGA Personal Importation Scheme.
Other examples of misinformation (Link & Link) and intimidation tactics, include threats issued by Queensland Health to doctors, intimidation from Queensland Police toward those who used liquid nicotine for therapeutic purposes, and on one occasion in 2016, the cancellation of a meeting related to vaping.
The consequences of these false claims regarding the legality of vaping and liquid nicotine can be quite serious. In some instances, a person who has had their therapeutic liquid nicotine supply confiscated may start smoking tobacco again despite any risks to their health, including death.
Despite the claims previous made by Queensland Health, the TGA Personal Importation Scheme applies to every territory and state in Australia, and always has.
Dr Colin Mendelsohn, chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association received further clarification from the Tasmanian Department of Health, which he posted on twitter.
Can tourists bring nicotine e-liquid to Australia?
It is possible for a tourist to bring nicotine e-liquid in to Australia under the TGA’s Traveller exemption policy. Under the exemption tourists need to hold a valid prescription from a doctor in their home country.
Tourists have no restrictions regarding bringing a vape device into the country. Thus, when a tourist arrives in Australia, it is only necessary to follow airline regulations regarding the transportation of the device, batteries, and vape tools.
When going through customs, it will be necessary to complete the “incoming passenger card” you are given, on which you must declare any tobacco or food or nicotine e-liquid you may have on your person, it is not necessary for a tourist to cite their vaping device. However, immigration officers are familiar with these types of devices and should recognize them immediately.
When vaping in Australia, it is best to only use your device in areas where you might otherwise consider smoking to be appropriate. In other words, you might want to step outside to vape, and you wouldn’t want to vape on school property or the like. Since many laws consider vaping analogous to smoking when it comes to smoke-free areas, you’ll want to be careful where you vape.
As a Schedule 7 substance, liquid nicotine is illegal in Australia. However, under the TGA Personal Importation Scheme, people in Australia are permitted to import a three month supply of liquid nicotine when they have a prescription from a registered medical practitioner (the prescription makes it a Schedule 4 medicine). A doctor may prescribe liquid nicotine for therapeutic purposes, such as the cessation of smoking or not returning to smoking.
While the Australian Department of Health recognizes that liquid nicotine may not be harmless, it nevertheless realizes that vaping is less harmful than smoking and is good public health policy. In the past, misinformation distributed in certain areas claimed that liquid nicotine was still illegal, but these claims were false. Under the TGA Personal Importation Scheme, every citizen in Australia is entitled to importing nicotine liquid in to Australia if they have a proper prescription. Tourists are also able to bring their vaping equipment and supplies with them when they visit Australia.
Read our full guide on – Flying to Australia with Vape Gear & Nicotine E-Liquids
Smoking since my late teens, with a few unsuccessful attempts to quit behind me I discovered vaping in 2012. I have been smoke free since. As a tech geek, I love how vaping allows me to try new set-ups & new innovations. When i'm not testing vape products for ozvapour I can be found watching the EPL or hiking a national park.
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