E-Cigarettes: Are They Legal in Australia? (2019 Update)
e-cigarettes have become a popular alternative to smoking cigarettes, but not a lot is known about their legality. Find out in this article.
E-Cigarettes (commonly also known by the verb ‘vaping’) has become a popular alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. Indeed, there’s been a lot of debate surrounding their safety in recent times – but this doesn’t change what the law says about them.
What are e-cigarettes?
An electronic (e) cigarette is a battery powered device which smoke can be inhaled from. It does this by electronically heating liquid into an aerosol. The aerosol is called ‘vapour’ – hence the term ‘vaping’.
Unlike cigarette butts, users do not inhale smoke from burning tobacco. Instead, the user inhales an aerosol into their lungs. It mimics the process of smoking, as well as the shape and colour of cigarette butts.
Technically, it is legal to use electronic cigarettes in NSW but with one significant caveat – only those which do not contain nicotine are legal. Further, they are subject to the same laws as traditional cigarettes. That is, you can’t vape in certain public places and there are advertising restrictions in place.
In June 2015, the NSW Parliament passed the Public Health (Tobacco) Amendment (E-cigarettes) Act 2015. This served to distinguish e-cigarette accessories from tobacco products and the types of offences that can be committed in NSW. For example, it is an offence:
- To sell e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to minors under the age of 18
- For adults to buy e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories on behalf of minors
- To operate or use a vending machine that dispenses e-cigarettes and/or e-cigarette accessories on behalf of a minor
Selling e-cigarettes or e-cigarette accessories to someone under the age of 18 carries a large fine. For example, an $11,000 fine for an individual and a $55,000 fine for a corporation.
Although it is legal for a person over 18 years old to ‘smoke’ from an electronic cigarette, it is actually illegal under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 (NSW) to sell liquid nicotine, including liquids used in e-cigarettes, not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic goods or without the NSW Ministry of Health’s approval.
If nicotine isn’t used therapeutically or in tobacco packed for smoking, it is a Schedule 7 dangerous poison. It is also an offence to sell e-cigarettes containing liquid nicotine or e-liquids containing nicotine without approval, which may result in a fine of up to $1100 for each offence. You can also be prosecuted for selling a Schedule 7 product containing nicotine if it isn’t clearly labelled and packaged. This is because retailers, suppliers and manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure all their products comply with legislation.
Display of e-cigarettes and accessories
There are restrictions on where and how e-cigarettes can be sold. By law, retailers cannot display e-cigarettes and accessories in a manner that can be seen or heard by the public inside or outside the premises. It is illegal for a retailer to display an advertisement publicly as well. Even a person cannot carry an electronic cigarette or accessory in a public place if they intend to sell it there. This includes giving out free samples.
Using e-cigarettes in public places
Essentially, it is legal to use e-cigarettes under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 (NSW). A person can use e-cigarettes in indoor and outdoor public places. But nY Further, it is an offence to vape in cars with children under the age of 16.
It is legal to use e-cigarettes in NSW and the laws are generally the same Australia-wide. However, there are regulations concerning the sale, distribution and display of e-cigarettes in public places and those containing nicotine are also illegal. However, not a lot is known yet about the effects of vaping long-term. This means that the law in this space is liable to change.
Fiona is a Paralegal working in our content team which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With an interest in information, media, consumer and employment law, her primary focus is on how technology will affect the future of the legal industry.