06 February 2024

​Retailers across the city of Sydney and south east Sydney have been targeted in a joint operation to crack down on the illegal sale of nicotine e-cigarettes (vapes).

NSW Health inspectors and NSW Police officers, working with officers from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, conducted 60 raids between 29 January and 2 February 2024.

The most recent raids seized 30,000 nicotine e-cigarettes, 118,000 cigarettes, 45kg of flavoured and loose-leaf tobacco and 284 containers of nicotine pouches worth with an estimated street value of over $1.1 million. This brings the total estimated street value of seized illegal vaping and tobacco products across NSW, since 1 July 2020 to more than $31.6 million.

Vaping products containing nicotine are only available when prescribed by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner. and can only be legally dispensed from a pharmacy in Australia with a valid prescription.

For all other retailers in NSW, the sale of e-cigarettes or e-liquids containing nicotine is illegal. This also includes online sales. The maximum penalty for illegally selling them is $1,650 per offence, six-months in prison or both, under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966.

Retailers and individuals can also be prosecuted for selling e-cigarette products to minors, with maximum penalties:

  • For individuals, up to $11,000 for a first offence, and up to $55,000 for a second or subsequent offence;
  • For corpor​ations, up to $55,000 for a first offence, and up to $110,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Once the vaping reforms are fully implemented later this year, tobacconists, vape shops and convenience stores will no longer be able to lawfully sell any type of vape. It’s important that retailers take action now to minimise financial losses and ensure they comply with the new rules.

Under Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods legislation, the TGA has issued 190 infringement notices totalling $1.71 million to 42 entities to date. A fine for illegal advertising, import or supply is currently, per offence, $3,756 for an individual and $18,780 for a corporation. Court penalties can exceed $10 million and include jail terms. See TGA's Information about infringement notices for more information.

NSW Health launched the ‘Every Vape is a Hit to Your Health’ campaign last week to encourage young people to consider the proven health harms of vaping.

This was in addition to the first meeting of the National Vaping Working Group, co-chaired by NSW Health Secretary, Susan Pearce AM, which is overseeing development and implementation of the national enforcement framework and brings together health and enforcement agencies from across Australia.

Quote attributable to NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park:

"The NSW Government committed $6.8 million over three years in the budget to invest in a crackdown on the sale of illegal vapes and increase support for young people who are addicted to vaping. We are delivering on that commitment.

“Vapes are not a safe alternative to smoking and we are doing everything we can to educate young people on the harms of vaping and to protect them from those same harms.

“More evidence continues to come to light about the dangers associated with vapes. They aren’t innocent flavoured water, they contain harmful chemicals which can also be found in weed killer and antifreeze.

“Officers have been finding some retailers have placed products in hidden rooms behind fake walls and in secret panels and drawers to hide the devices, but we have and will continue to find them.

“If you think a tobacco or e-cigarette retailing law has been broken by a retailer in NSW, you can report this via the NSW Health website.

“NSW Health will continue to work closely with our Federal counterparts and NSW Police to take the action needed to prevent vaping becoming the next public health emergency for generations to come.”

Quote attributable to Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler:

“Vape products are deliberately marketed to our children. We have seen that kids buy vapes from other kids at school which is a significant concern for both current and future health and wellbeing.

“The Australian Government is stamping out ways that anyone can access these harmful products by reforming the regulation of vapes, including removing loopholes in existing laws, and increasing enforcement in cooperation with states and territories.”

“On 1 January 2024, the first stage of our reforms made the importation of single use disposable vapes illegal, except in very limited circumstances.”

“Stronger controls on the importation, manufacture, supply and advertising of vapes will be progressively implemented over 2024.”

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration will continue to work with NSW Health and Australian Border Force to stamp out the illegal importation and supply of vapes under Commonwealth and state and territory law.”