If you searched for the laws regarding vapes or e-cigarettes a month ago, you are guaranteed to find a lot of conflicting information around Australian Vaping laws. However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that from the 1st of October 2021, consumers need a valid prescription to purchase or to import nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine.

This means that when a consumer purchases these products online from an overseas supplier or an Australian pharmacy, they are now legally requiring a prescription from an Australian doctor. It remains illegal for other Australian retailers, such as tobacco shops, ‘vape’ shops and convenience stores, to sell nicotine vaping products.

What are the laws?

On the 1st of October 2021, nicotine is entered in Schedule 4 of the Poisons Standard. Poison scheduling is a national classification system that controls how medicines and poisons are made available to the public, from schedule 1 being the ‘safest’ drug on the market to schedule 10 being substances of great danger to health as to warrant prohibition of sale, supply and use.

Schedule 4 drugs primarily include prescription-only medicine, and it was amended so that it now encompasses all nicotine vaping products as prescription-only medicines. In the latest Poisons Standard October 2021, schedule 4 nicotine products include all nicotine in preparations for human use except:

  1. a) In preparations for oromucosal or transdermal administration for human therapeutic use as an aid in the withdrawal from tobacco smoking; or
  2. b) In tobacco prepared and packed for smoking.

What this means is that the new regulation only bounds nicotine vaping products, nicotine replacement therapies such as sprays, patches, lozenges, and chewing gums do not require a prescription, and it will continue to be available from pharmacies and all other retail stores. As far as vaping products such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices that do not contain nicotine, there are no changes to the availability and accessibility of these products.

How can I legally acquire my nicotine vape products?

There are essentially two legal ways of acquiring your vaping products containing nicotine.

  1. From Australian sponsors and/or wholesalers; or
  2. Directly from overseas suppliers.

If you are buying them domestically, you can purchase them via one of the established access schemes for unapproved good.

  • Authorised prescribers — Medical practitioners can be granted authority to prescribe a specified unapproved therapeutic good or class of unapproved therapeutic goods to specified recipients or classes of recipients;
  • Special access scheme – the scheme (SAS) allows certain health practitioners to access therapeutic goods(such as medicines, medical devices, or biologicals) that are not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for a single patient.

If you wish to import nicotine vaping products personally from overseas, a permit from Australian Border Force is required.

  • Personal importation scheme – the scheme allows a person to legally import most therapeutic goods for personal use where such therapeutic goods may not be approved for supply in Australia.


NSW Health is empowered to prosecute retailers for selling e-cigarettes and e-liquid products that contain nicotine.  The applicable penalties are regulated under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 (NSW) and Public Health (Tobacco) Regulation 2016 (NSW). These Acts primarily target retailers instead of tobacco product/e-cigarette users.

Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008, some of the examples include:

If you are thinking of quitting smoking, check out iCanQuit, a supportive community initiated by the Cancer Institute NSW. It can provide you with quitting tips, quitting methods from successful iCanQuit members and academics.

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If you are being prosecuted for selling products containing nicotine, our lawyers at National Criminal Lawyers® practice exclusively in criminal law related matters. It is imperative that you seek legal representation if you feel your rights and freedoms are threatened, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.

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