What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapour that users inhale.[1] E-cigarettes are also called e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS).
E-cigarettes may be shaped and colored to make them look like cigarettes or other tobacco products like cigars, cigarillos, pipes, hookahs, shishas and sometimes they look like everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks.[2]
Inhaling the aerosol is usually called ‘vap​ing’. When vaping an e-cigarette, the user inhales and exhales the vapour from the heated e-liquid which may give the appearance of smoke. The composition of e-liquid varies but it usually contains some chemicals and may or may not contain nicotine.  

Are e-cigarettes legal in NSW?

Provisions under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 that apply to tobacco products also apply to e-cigarette and e-cigarette accessories. These include provision about the display and advertising of e-cigarettes and accessories.

Under the law, it is also an offence:

  • to sell e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to any person under the age of 18 (minor)
  • 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
  • to use e-cigarettes in cars with children under the age of 16 present.

NSW Police have the power to seize an e-cigarette that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18.

The sale of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to a minor is subject to the same maximum penalty as the sale of a tobacco product to a minor:

  • a penalty of $11,000 for an individual or $55,000 for a corporation
  • for repeat offenders, a penalty of $55,000 for an individual and $110,000 for a corporation.

For more information about these laws, read the following fact sheets:


Liquid nicotine

The sale of nicotine, including in liquids used in e-cigarettes, is illegal under the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008. To find out more about the law and e-cigarettes, read  Are electronic cigarettes legal in NSW? fact sheet.

If you see an e-cigarette or e-liquid that is labelled as containing nicotine, you can report this to NSW Health by email ecigs@doh.health.nsw.gov.au.

Are e-cigarettes and liquids safe?

To find out more about whether e-cigarettes and their liquids are safe, read  Are electronic cigarettes and liquids safe?


Can e-cigarettes help me to quit smoking?

The NSW Government encourages all smokers to quit smoking. You can get help from the NSW Quitline 13 7848 a free telephone based counselling service, iCanQuit website and your general practitioner or pharmacist.

To find out more about whether e-cigarettes can help you to quit smoking, read  Can electronic cigarettes help me to quit smoking?​​​​


Public health warning

Some e-cigarettes and e-liquids which are labelled as containing no nicotine have been found upon analysis in Australia to actually contain significant quantities of nicotine. Scientific testing undertaken by the NSW Ministry of Health showed that many of the liquids used in e-cigarettes contained high levels of nicotine that, if swallowed are potentially lethal. A public health warning was released in October 2013 to raise consumer awareness of the potential risks of these products. 



  1. National Health and Medical Research Council Electronic Cigarettes, Australia.
  2. Brown, C.J. and J.M. Cheng, Electronic cigarettes: product characterisation and design considerations. Tob Control, 2014. 23 Suppl. 2: p. 4-10.
Page Updated: Friday 6 April 2018