Legalities of Vaping

The legalities of vaping differ from one country to another, ranging from the absence of regulation to an outright ban of the products. In many parts of Australia and New Zealand, the sale and use of e-cigarettes and other vaping items are covered under the same restrictions for tobacco products.

Legalise Vaping Australia’s Online Petition for Nicotine Vaping

In February 2020, Legalise Vaping Australia took a step to legalise nicotine vaping in the country by launching an online petition and aiming to collect thousands of signatures. The petition seeks legislative changes to regulate both nicotine and nicotine-free electronic cigarettes and to provide consumer protections to the Australians who use them. Specifically, the online petition asks the Senate to call the Minister of Health to amend the poisons schedule to enable the sale of nicotine e-cigs, and to provide regulations that protect users of these smoking paraphernalia (both with or without nicotine).  As of May 2021, the online petition has gathered more than 44,000 signatures.

Legalise Vaping Australia is a grassroots advocacy and activist organisation aiming for the risk-proportionate regulation and legalisation of e-cigarettes and vaping in the country. Founded in 2017, the organization is a joint initiative of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and the youth-led MyChoice Australia.

The organisation acknowledges that quitting completely is the best method to eliminate the harm of smoking, but for those who find it hard to stop, transitioning to smoke-free products offers a chance for improved health and life.  The organisation works with experts, researchers and key politicians to strike the right balance for the regulation of e-cigs and vape products to ensure access for Australian smokers who are trying to quit.

New Zealand’s Plan as a Smoke-Free Nation by 2025

The government of New Zealand has launched a campaign that will turn the country smoke-free by 2025. This is in response to the joint report of the Parliament’s Maori Affairs Committee and Health Committee in 2018 that revealed the horrendous effects of smoking in New Zealand.

As of May 2021, the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan is open for consultation to the public until the end of the month. The document essentially tackles tobacco products. Specifically, it enumerates and explains how the country plans to reduce smoking as well as tobacco availability to minimal levels by 2025 with expected outcomes of increasing the number of young people who remain smoke-free and of smokers who successfully quit the habit.

The potential actions include:

  • Reinforcing current control system for tobacco through governance, community support, research, and compliance, among others.
  • Weakening the accessibility of smoked tobacco products, such as mandating tobacco retailers to obtain licence.
  • Making tobacco products less appealing and less addictive by reducing nicotine, removing filters and curbing innovations.
  • Making the products less affordable by setting a minimum price.
  • Boosting existing initiatives such as mass and social media campaigns, and investments in stop-smoking services.

Fortunately, the 2025 initiative acknowledges that vaping products provide a risk-proportionate alternative that makes smoked tobacco much less appealing and accessible.  However, the campaign ultimately aims to focus on supporting people, especially the younger ones, to be both smoke-free and vape-free.

When it comes to the current legalities of vaping in New Zealand, the specialist vape retailers (SVRs) are required to obtain government approval under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990. This is the government’s way to ensure compliance and to monitor sales of vaping products. Under the 2025 initiative, however, every retailer of tobacco and/or vape products, and not just SVRs, could be mandated to secure a licence.

Is it illegal to buy e-liquids containing nicotine in Australia?

Yes, it is illegal to purchase and sell nicotine to be used in e-cigarettes in Australia. In fact, it is even illegal to sell smokeless tobacco products such as oral snuff, chewing tobacco, and tobacco powder in the country.

In Australia, nicotine is considered a dangerous poison under The Poisons Standard, which classifies poisons and medicines into Schedules for inclusion in the relevant legislation within the country.

While nicotine e-liquids are banned throughout Australia, some states and territories have their own laws on the promotion, sale and supply of e-cigarettes in general.

  • In the ACT, e-cigs and other personal vaporisers are regulated similarly to tobacco products. 
  • In the Northern Territory, the sale of vaping products and their accessories are included in the amended Control Act 2002. Sellers are also mandated to obtain a Tobacco Retail Licence.
  • In Queensland, electronic cigarettes are considered as smoking products, and the advertising, sale and promotion of which are covered under Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998
  • In South Australia, the sale, promotion and supply of vaping products are covered by the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997, which, among other regulations, require vape shop owners to obtain a Retail Tobacco and E-cigarette Merchant’s Licence.

Can I use e-liquids containing nicotine in Australia?

No. It is illegal to use nicotine for use in e-cigarettes in Australia, as the substance is classified as a dangerous poison in the country’s The Poisons Standard.

Furthermore, in many states and territories across Australia, it is even illegal to use e-cigs in areas where smoking is illegal. 

  • In NSW, you cannot use e-cigs in designated smoke-free areas and on public transport vehicles. Establishments can implement their own policies within their premises.
  • In the Northern Territory, the amended Tobacco Control Act 2002 covers the use of vaping products, including vaping in a private motor vehicle with a 16-year-old passenger or younger.
  • In Queensland, you cannot use e-cigarettes in existing non-smoking indoor and outdoor areas
  • In South Australia, the use of vaping products is covered by the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997, which, among others, bans the use of vaping products in outdoor dining areas such as cafes, pubs, restaurants and temporary dining areas in events.

Can I purchase e-liquids containing nicotine from overseas and get it shipped to Australia?

Short answer? Yes, but for personal therapeutic use only with an e-cigarette.

The importation of e-liquids with nicotine is allowed, but regulated, in Australia under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Specifically, you can import as much as three month’s worth of nicotine supply for vaping purposes under these conditions:

  • You’re prescribed for it by a registered Australian doctor;
  • It’s for helping you to quit smoking or any other therapeutic reason;
  • The state or territory you’re in legalises nicotine use for this purpose; and
  • There’s no other product approved by the TGA that can help you.

Bottom Line

As a vape shop owner, be sure to stay updated on the legalities of vaping in Australia and New Zealand to ensure legal compliance for your business and to provide helpful information to your customers.

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