Legal information

Law Book and gavel

Nicotine

Under Australian law, it is illegal to buy, possess or use liquid nicotine for vaping without a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner.

In Australia, medicines and poisons are listed in the Poisons Standard and are classified into categories called Schedules, which determine how they are regulated. Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 ’dangerous poison’, along with arsenic and strychnine. The exceptions to this classification are nicotine in tobacco for smoking and medicinal nicotine replacement products.

However, importation, use and possession of liquid nicotine for a ‘therapeutic use’ (eg to quit or reduce smoking or to prevent relapse) are legal if the user has a prescription from an Australian medical practitioner. It is then classified as a Schedule 4 product (prescription only) and it is permissible to possess or use it for personal use.

1. TGA Personal Importation Scheme

You can legally import nicotine from overseas to help you quit or reduce smoking under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Personal Importation Scheme. You may import 3 months’ supply at a time for personal use, up to a total of 15 months’ supply per year. The law requires you to have a prescription from a registered Australian doctor. Keep the script at home, or as a photo on your phone in case it is required. However, the TGA warns that there may be risks in importing nicotine from overseas suppliers as quality cannot be guaranteed.

2. Australian compounding pharmacies

Authorised Australian compounding pharmacies can legally prepare nicotine e-liquid if provided with a doctor’s prescription for a therapeutic purpose.

Preparation and supply of liquid nicotine for a particular person is legal under the ‘Compounding exemption’ in item 6 of Schedule 5 to the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990.

Illegal nicotine

It is ILLEGAL to source liquid nicotine in Australia without a prescription. Purchase of illegal nicotine ‘under the counter’ is STRONGLY DISCOURAGED. There are no guarantees of product quality or safety or that the liquid is what it claims to be. It is also an offence under state laws.


State laws

State laws regulate issues such as sale, use in public places, age limits on sale, display and promotion of vaporizers. Regulations are different between states and may change from time to time.

Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval
  • Sale of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal but products must not make a therapeutic claim such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking’)
  • Vending machines: restricted to areas > 18 year-old areas eg hotels, clubs or casino areas
  • Sale from a single point of sale in each retail outlet (one cash register). No sale from booth, tent, market stall or temporary structure
Public Places
  • Can be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas
  • Individual establishments can develop own policies to restrict use
Display
  • Products or advertisements cannot be seen by the public from inside or outside the premises.
Promotion
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs
Cars
  • No use in cars with children under 16y
Youth
  • Sale to minors (<18y) is an offence
  • No purchase by adults of vaporisers for a minor
  • NSW Police have the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18.
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval.
  • Sale of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal but products must not make a therapeutic claim such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking’
  • Vending machines: restricted to areas > 18 year old areas eg hotels, clubs or casino areas
  • A single price board at point of sale. No sale from booth, tent, market stall or temporary structure
Public Places
  • Cannot be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas
Display
  • Limited display of vaping devices, e-liquids and accessories. Maximum area four metres squared
Promotion
  • No advertising or promotion at point of sale or outside store

 

Cars
  • No use in cars with children under 16y
Youth
  • No advertising or promotion at point of sale or outside store
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs
  • No testing liquids in store
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval.
  • Sale of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal but products must not make a therapeutic claim such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking’
  • Cannot be sold from a vending machine
  • Cannot be displayed in a retail outlet. No sale from booth, tent, market stall or temporary structure. Cannot be sold from more than one point of sale.
Public Places
  • Cannot be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas
Display
  • Cannot be displayed, advertised or promoted in retail outlets.
Promotion
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs.
Cars
  • No use in cars with children under 16 years
Youth
  • Sale to minors (<18 years) is an offence
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs
  • No purchase by adults of a vaporiser for a minor
  • Under the act, authorised persons have the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18 years
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval
  • Retailers must be licensed and are required to undertake future reporting (refer to the link below for details
  • Sale of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal but products must not make a therapeutic claim such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking’
  • Vending machines: restricted to areas > 18 year old areas eg hotels, clubs or casino areas. A member of the public cannot operate a vending machine
  • No sale from booth, tent, market stall or temporary structure
Public Places
  • Cannot be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas
Display
  • Products cannot be seen by the public from inside or outside the premises. There are strict controls on display and permanent display of tobacco or e-cigarette products is prohibited.
Promotion
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs. It is against the law to advertise a tobacco or vaporiser
Cars
  • No use in cars with a child present
Youth
  • Sale to minors (< 18 years) is an offence
  • No purchase by adults of vaporiser for a minor
  • An enforcement officer has the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18 years
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval
  • Hardware and e-liquid (without nicotine) is legal to sell according to some advice but questions are raised because ‘products that resemble cigarettes’ are illegal to sell. To date, this appears to be unenforced
Public Places
  • Can be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas Individual establishments can develop own policies to restrict use
Display
  • There are no restrictions on displaying vaping products that do not contain nicotine
Promotion
  • There are no restrictions on promotions of non-nicotine vaporisers
Cars
  • No restrictions on vaping in cars
Youth
  • There are no restrictions on e-liquid sales to minors

Note: there is a Bill currently before parliament that will change the regulations if passed. The below is accurate at the time of publishing. The proposed Bill is available in the link below

Legislation before parliament
Fact sheet about proposed changes to the regulations

Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval
  • Sale of vaping devices is banned in WA by way of a court ruling in 2014 (upheld on appeal in 2016) which found that they resemble tobacco products. E-liquid (without nicotine) is legal to sell. Refer to the below links for further explanation
Public Places
  • Can be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas. Individual establishments can develop own policies to restrict use
Display
  • There are no restrictions on displaying e-liquid products that do not contain nicotine. Vaporisers cannot be sold.
Promotion
  • There are no restrictions on promotions of non-nicotine e-liquid. Vaporisers cannot be sold if they resemble a tobacco product
Cars
  • No restrictions on vaping in cars
Youth
  • There are no restrictions on e-liquid sales to minors
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval
  • Hardware and e-liquid (without nicotine) is legal to sell
Public Places
  • Can be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas Individual establishments can develop own policies to restrict use
Display
  • There are no restrictions on displaying e-cigarette products that do not contain nicotine
Promotion
  • There are no restrictions on promotions of non-nicotine vaporisers
Cars
  • No restrictions on vaping in cars
Youth
  • There are no restrictions on e-liquid sales to minors
Sale
  • Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval.
  • Sale of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal provided the seller holds a tobacco licence but products must not make a therapeutic claim such as ‘this product will help you quit or reduce smoking
  • Cannot be sold from a vending machine if the public has use of the vending machine
  • Cannot be displayed in a retail outlet. Cannot be sold from more than one point of sale in an unlicensed premises.
Public Places
  • Cannot be used in smoke free indoor and outdoor areas
Display
  •  Cannot be displayed, advertised or promoted in retail outlets.
Promotion
  • No free samples, sponsorship or shopper loyalty programs
Cars
Youth
  • Sale to minors (<18 years) is an offence
  • No purchase by adults of vaporisers for a minor
  • Under the act, authorised persons have the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18 years


Penalties

There are serious penalties for acquiring, using and/or possessing liquid nicotine unless it is prescribed by a doctor to help you quit or cut down smoking. Fines are based on ‘penalty units’, which can be located here.

STATE PENALTY PRISON TERM LEGISLATION
ACT $30,000 max Or prison or both 2 years Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008
Western Australia $45,000 Medicines and Poisons Act 2014
Victoria $15,546 max Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017
South Australia $10,000 max Controlled Substances Act 1984
Northern Territory $15,400 max Or prison 12 months Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act
Queensland $9752 max Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996
New South Wales $1,100 max Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008
Tasmania $7,850 Or prison Up to 2 years Poisons Act 1971

Customs

It is not an offence to import nicotine e-liquid into Australia under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and an import permit is not required.

However, you may be committing an offence when you take possession of imported nicotine if you do not possess a prescription and do not meet the requirements of the TGA Personal Importation Scheme (above).

Imported vaping devices with nicotine which make a health claim (eg they are to help you stop or cut down smoking) may be referred to the TGA for a decision on whether to confiscate them, even if you have a prescription.


Vaping devices

It is not illegal to possess or use a vaporiser (without nicotine) in all states and territories of Australia.

However, it is illegal to sell a vaporiser in Western Australia. In some other states, there are restrictions on the sale of vaporisers that resemble cigarettes.


Other countries

Vaping is legal and readily available in most western countries such as:

Further details for individual countries are found here on the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institute for Global Tobacco Control website.

Go to Top