The Therapeutic Goods Administration, a legal body associated with the Department of Health of the Australian Government, announced on the 3rd of September that new laws were going to be introduced that would affect the sale of e-cigarettes in Australia.
Now, for most people who vape, these laws aren’t going to affect them significantly. But, just in case, we’re going to break down these new laws, as well as the already existing vaping laws of each state, so you can be aware of where you stand legally.
How have vape laws changed?
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration website, from 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to legally buy nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine, from overseas websites without first getting a prescription.
This will make the vape law applying to importation of nicotine vaping products consistent with existing state and territory laws regarding their sale - specifically that these products cannot be sold anywhere in Australia without a doctor's prescription.
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Nicotine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the rest of the body. It is the main psychoactive ingredient in tobacco products, and it is notorious for both adverse health effects and addictive properties. While nicotine is mostly present in cigarettes, cigars and pipes, there are also e-cigarette products that contain nicotine as well.
What kinds of products are affected by this new law?
Any vaping products that contain nicotine salt or base in solution and are heated using a vaping device to make aerosol for inhalation are affected by this law. That affects the sales of:
- Nicotine e-cigarettes
- Nicotine pods
- Liquid nicotine vape juice
However, products that are not affected by this law are:
- nicotine replacement therapies, such as sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums
- vaping products that do not contain nicotine
Why has this law been changed in the first place?
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration website, there has been a significant increase in the use of nicotine vaping products by young people in Australia and in many other countries. Between 2015 and 2019, e-cigarette use by young people increased by 96 per cent in Australia. There is evidence that nicotine vaping products act as a 'gateway' to smoking in youth and exposure to nicotine in adolescents may have long-term consequences for brain development.
The changes strike a balance between the need to prevent young people from taking up nicotine vaping products while allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation on their doctor's advice.
What if I need to buy nicotine vaping products?
Doctors will sometimes prescribe certain patients with nicotine vaping products if they believe it will help them overcome a smoking addiction. In this event, it is still possible to obtain nicotine vaping products.
Your doctor will need to either:
- apply to the TGA for access to the unapproved product before they give you a prescription. We have a developed a simple application form for doctors to streamline this process, or
- provide you with a script for a 3 month (or less) supply of nicotine vaping products if you intend to use the Personal Importation Scheme to buy the products from an overseas website
Once you have a prescription, you will need to either:
- fill out your prescription at a pharmacy (either a physical community pharmacy or an Australian online pharmacy), or
Import it from overseas websites using the Personal Importation Scheme
If you are using 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. You should arrange for a copy of your prescription to be enclosed with the package the product is sent in. Australian Border Force (ABF) officials can stop your import at the Australian border if they suspect that it is an unlawful import.
What are the existing laws around vaping?
While the states have different laws pertaining to vaping in Australia, the consensus between the states is that e-cigarettes are:
- classified as smoke products (i.e. they cannot be used in smoke free areas, etc.)
- governed by the same laws as tobacco products (i.e. they cannot be sold to people under the age of 18, etc.)
- illegal to sell if they contain liquid nicotine
The best thing you can do is check the individual laws of your state. While it is highly unlikely that they will deviate from the above consensus, it is always a good idea to be aware of where you stand legally.