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WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
Navigating Australia's Nicotine and Vaping Laws: What You Need to Know

Navigating Australia's Nicotine and Vaping Laws: What You Need to Know


  1. Liquid Nicotine - Federally Illegal Except for Therapeutic Use
  2. Vaping Regulations Across Australian States and Territories
  3. Potential Legal Penalties
  4. Recent Shifts in Vaping Regulations
  5. Some Positive Developments in Vaping Regulations
  6. Key Takeaways
  7. Conclusion

Vaping laws in Australia have rapidly grown into a complex patchwork system that can confuse users and retailers alike. With regulations differing between states and territories, keeping track of what's legal can be challenging. This article unpacks these laws to provide clarity for Australians.

Liquid Nicotine - Federally Illegal Except for Therapeutic Use

Australia maintains a federal ban on buying, possessing, or using nicotine vaping liquids without a doctor's prescription. Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 "dangerous poison" under the Poisons Standard alongside substances like strychnine.

However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) permits import and possession with a script for "therapeutic use" - i.e. quitting smoking. A patient must obtain liquid nicotine from an overseas supplier and have an Australian doctor's prescription. This legalises possession as a Schedule 4 (prescription-only) product.

In 2020, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners approved prescribing nicotine vaping to smokers who have unsuccessfully tried other methods. Doctors can reference resources from the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.

The TGA also allows personal nicotine imports under its Special Access Scheme. With a doctor's prescription, an individual can import a 3 month supply at a time, up to 15 months annually. The products must be for personal therapeutic use, not commercial sale.

Non-prescription nicotine remains federally illegal. Purchase without a script, often semi-covertly in vape shops, risks unreliable products and legal penalties.

Vaping Regulations Across Australian States and Territories

Within this federal framework, individual states and territories impose further regulations:

  • Queensland - You can't vape in smoke-free zones, and Queensland is the only Australian state where importing nicotine for personal use is illegal, as is using a nicotine-containing e-cigarette. However, it's important to note that the sale and supply of e-cigarettes are legally permitted.
  • Tasmania - Using nicotine vaping products in public and advertising is prohibited. Sales require licensing.
  • Victoria - In Victoria, you can legally import nicotine for personal use from overseas, provided you have a prescription from a medical practitioner.
  • NSW/ACT - The sale and supply of vaping products are permitted. Additionally, you can legally use e-cigarettes with nicotine-containing e-liquid if you have a valid prescription. Importing nicotine for personal use from overseas is also allowed with a medical practitioner's prescription.
  • SA/NT - The Northern Territory (NT) has the most liberal vaping laws in Australia, with e-cigarette products currently unclassified. This means only federal laws apply, preventing the purchase of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or e-liquids in Australia. In NT, you can vape freely unless signage prohibits it, and stores can display vape products without restrictions.
  • Western Australia - All sales of vaping products are banned, regardless of nicotine content. However, adult use/possession remains legal. And you're still able to purchase e-cigarettes and e-liquids online from vendors located in other states and have them shipped directly to you in Western Australia.

In conclusion, vaping regulations vary widely across Australia's states and territories. Navigating these varying legal landscapes can be complex, which makes it crucial for vaping users and retailers alike to stay informed about the specific regulations that apply in their locale.

Unlawful possession of nicotine vaping products potentially attracts steep fines and even imprisonment, according to the laws in various states and territories of Australia:


Maximum Fine for Unauthorised Acquisition/Use/Possession

Prison Term

Relevant Legislation

State Health Department

ACT (Australian Capital Territory)

$30,000 or prison or both

Up to 2 years

Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008

ACT Health

WA (Western Australia)


None Specified

Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016

WA Department of Health

VIC (Victoria)


None Specified

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017

Health Victoria

SA (South Australia)


None Specified

Controlled Substances Act 1984

SA Health

NT (Northern Territory)

$15,400 or prison

Up to 1 year

Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2012

NT Department of Health

NSW (New South Wales)



Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008

NSW Health

TAS (Tasmania)

$7,850 or prison

Up to 2 years

Poisons Regulations 2018

Department of Health Tasmania

State penalties often reference "penalty units," where each unit equals a defined monetary fine adjusted for inflation. So, actual amounts can change annually.

Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia presently have the most punitive sanctions for illegally possessing nicotine without a prescription. These potentially include imprisonment and 5-figure fines. Users risk substantial penalties in all jurisdictions.

Recent Shifts in Vaping Regulations

Vaping laws continue evolving rapidly across Australia. For instance, from October 2021, the national government has greatly increased the fines for bringing nicotine into the country without a doctor's prescription. The fine can now be as much as $222,000. This is calculated using something called 'penalty units', where each unit is worth $222, and there could be up to 1,000 of these units charged.

Previously, liberal South Australia proposed introducing advertising bans, vape-free public spaces, sales restrictions, and usage bans in cars with minors in 2018. However, electoral changes halted the advancement of these laws. Ongoing monitoring of vaping regulatory reviews remains advisable there and in other jurisdictions.

Some Positive Developments in Vaping Regulations

Amidst much regulatory tightening, some positive developments have emerged:

  • NSW announced designated vape store exemptions from public use bans to allow product sampling.
  • Doctors prescribing liquid nicotine have grown since professional guidelines approved this practice.
  • Personal import schemes help users securely access vaping products that have proven 95% less harmful than smoking.

So, while Australia maintains among the world's most stringent vaping laws, some small steps have improved lawful access for risk reduction. But complex state variances persist.

Key Takeaways

For ordinary Australians, several key lessons stand out:

  • Federally, importing or using nicotine without a doctor's prescription remains illegal.
  • State and territory laws layer on additional restrictions like sales bans or public use prohibitions.
  • Penalties for violations can be severe - up to imprisonment in some jurisdictions.
  • Regulations continue to evolve rapidly, necessitating frequent review.

However, pathways exist for lawful therapeutic access through medical consultations and import schemes.


In summary, comprehending the nuances across Australia's nicotine and vaping laws remains vital for compliant usage. Consulting state/territory government websites for the latest regulations is advised. While challenging to navigate, these frameworks aim to permit vaping where the evidence supports harm reduction while protecting youth.

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