Where There’s Smoke There Could Be Fire: New Vaping Laws in Australia

As of 1 October 2021, Australians will require a doctor’s prescription to get their hands on a nicotine-containing vaping products. It will be illegal to purchase nicotine vaping products, including nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine online, locally or from overseas without a doctor’s prescription.

So how will the 500,000-odd Aussie vapers get their nicotine fix? Well, you will now need to book an appointment with your GP to discuss your circumstances and why you need access to a nicotine vape. The good news for vapers is that the Government has conveniently introduced a new telehealth Medicare item for smoking cessation consults. This will allow you to receive a script for your vapes or other nicotine-containing products without having to go to the doctor’s office.

The bad news for vapers however is that The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is releasing best practice guidelines for GPs when seeing a patient for smoking cessation consults – which effectively states there is very little evidence to support the use of vapes for cessation and vapes should be a final resort strategy after exhausting other quitting techniques.

Once you receive your vape prescription (or what I like to refer to as a ‘vape license’) there are 2 main avenues available to you:

  • Filling your prescription at a pharmacy (either a physical pharmacy or an Australian online pharmacy); or
  • Importing from overseas websites 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).

Tip – if importing, we suggest arranging a copy of your prescription to be enclosed in the packaging by the overseas company to avoid any unnecessary issues with the Australian Border Force when it enters the country.

What are the penalties moving forward? The penalty for importing nicotine e-liquid without a prescription will be up to $222,000 under the Customs Act 1901. The offence carries 1,000 penalty points at $222 each.

Below is a table for individuals for acquiring, using and/or possessing liquid nicotine unless it is prescribed by a doctor.

 

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

As you can see the fines are hefty.

The decision to change laws regarding vaping was made after comprehensive revision of worldwide evidence. Research by Professor Emily Banks who is an epidemiologist with the Australian National University also played a key role in developing informed laws around vaping as she believes they do more harm than good. Legalise Vaping Campaign Director Brian Marlow believes that the prescription model is unnecessary and will force many Australians to start smoking regular cigarettes again. So, the new model is definitely an area of contention in Australia.

Regardless of how you feel about the changes to the nicotine vaping laws in Australia it’s important that you keep the above in mind next time you want to take a puff – Remember to always keep you vape prescription on you if you are ever pulled up by law enforcement.

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