• The Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 and the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017 prohibit people from using electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) in smoke-free areas. They can use e-cigarettes where smoking is not banned.
  • Under the NSW Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes or e-cigarette accessories to a person under 18 years of age.
  • It is illegal to display, advertise or promote e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal in NSW. Adults can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine.
  • From 1 October 2021, e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine are a prescription only medicine.
  • It is illegal for retailers (other than pharmacies) to sell e-cigarettes or e-liquids that contain nicotine, including online sales
  • E-cigarettes are not harm-free and may expose users and bystanders to chemicals that are harmful to health. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as an aid to help smokers to quit.
  • NSW Health continues to carefully monitor the evidence to ensure the regulation of e-cigarettes is balanced and proportionate to the risks and benefits that they present.
  • The Australian Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory Chief Health Officers have issued a statement outlining the emerging link between e-cigarette use and severe lung disease.
Last updated: 29 September 2021

NSW Health’s position on e-cigarettes

NSW Health supports the Statement on e-cigarettes from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 

Key messages of the statement include:

  • There is not enough evidence to support e-cigarettes as a product to assist smokers to quit. Smokers who would like to quit should consult their doctors or call the Quitline.
  • E-cigarettes may expose users to chemicals and toxins that are harmful to health.
  • Health authorities should act to minimise harm to ​users and bystanders until evidence of safety, quality and efficacy can be produced.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (also known as e-liquid) to produce a vapour that users inhale.1 E-cigarettes are also called 'e-cigs' or 'vapes'.

E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes and can be made to look like everyday items including highlighters, pens or USB memory sticks. Vapour from e-cigarettes does not usually have a strong odour but they may have a sweet smell depending on the flavour.  

When using an e-cigarette, the user inhales and exhales the vapour from the heated e-liquid. E-liquid contains a range of chemicals and it may or may not contain nicotine.

Are e-cigarettes legal in NSW?

E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal in NSW. Adults can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine.

From 1 October 2021 e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine are a prescription only medicine. This means pharmacists in community pharmacies can supply e-liquids and e-cigarettes (containing nicotine) to their customers (18 years and over) if they have a valid prescription from a doctor.

For retailers other than pharmacies it will continue to be illegal to sell e-liquids and e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. This includes online sales.

If you think a retailer other than a pharmacy is selling e-cigarettes that contain nicotine, please report it to NSW Health or call the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412. Information collected will help to guide the enforcement of tobacco and e-cigarette retailing laws by NSW Health Inspectors.

Where is e-cigarette use banned under the smoke-free laws?

The Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 prohibits people from using e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas. They can use e-cigarettes where smoking is not banned.

Smoke-free areas where people cannot smoke or use e-cigarettes are:

  • All indoor public places
  • Outdoor public places:
    • Within 10 metres of children’s play equipment in outdoor public places
    • Public swimming pools
    • Spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas used for organised sporting events
    • Public transport stops and platforms, including ferry wharves and taxi ranks
    • Within 4 metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building
    • Commercial outdoor dining areas
  • In a car with a child under 16 years of age in the vehicle.

Using e-cigarettes on public transport vehicles such as trains, buses, light rail, ferries is also banned under the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017.

Individual establishments and workplaces such as businesses, councils and other organisations may develop their own smoke-free policies to ban the use of e-cigarettes within the premises.

NSW Health inspectors conduct regular compliance monitoring and enforcement activity. Inspectors enforce the ban on using e-cigarettes where smoking is not permitted. They can issue cautions or on the spot fines of $300 to people who break the law.

For more information on enforcement and reporting a breach of the smoking ban please refer to smoke-free laws in NSW.

Display of 'No Smoking' sign

NSW Health smoke-free signage will stay the same as ‘No Smoking’ covers both smoking tobacco and using e-cigarettes. Under the Smoke-free Environment Amendment Act 2018, use of e-cigarettes is ‘smoking’ for the purposes of the relevant Acts.

Smoke-free signage and resources which comply with the requirements under the regulation are available to order free of charge from NSW Health. Owners and occupiers can make their own signs which comply with the regulation.
  

Safety concerns about e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are not risk free. They may expose users and bystanders to chemicals and toxins such as propylene glycol, glycerol or ethylene glycol that cause adverse health effects, and may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory diseases. E-liquids or vapour can also contain potentially harmful chemicals which are not present in smoke from tobacco cigarettes.1

E-cigarettes are often labelled incorrectly and may contain high levels nicotine, even when they claim not to contain nicotine. Too much nicotine from e-cigarettes can cause nicotine poisoning. If you think someone has been poisoned by liquid nicotine, please call the Poisons Centre on 13 11 26 immediately or 000 if it is an emergency. For more information see  NSW Poisons Information Centre .

The Australian Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory Chief Health Officers have issued a statement on the emerging link between e-cigarette and severe lung disease

The sale and purchase of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories

Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008:

  • It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes and accessories to or buy these products on behalf of a person under 18 years of age.
  • E-cigarettes and accessories cannot be seen by the public, displayed or advertised anywhere inside or outside a retail shop.
  • E-cigarettes and accessories cannot be sold from temporary and mobile premises such as a market stall or stand, a tent or a car, and cannot be given out as a free sample.
  • Retailers can only sell e-cigarettes and accessories from a single point of sale in each retail outlet and cannot promote or include these products in a shopper loyalty program.

For more information please refer to Tobacco and e-cigarette retailing laws in NSW.

The sale of e-liquid containing nicotine

The sale and use of e-liquid nicotine, including in e-cigarettes are against the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008. This means e-cigarettes containing nicotine cannot be sold in Australia unless the user has a prescription from a medical doctor. 

If you think someone is selling e-cigarettes that contain nicotine, please report it to NSW Health or call the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412. Information collected will help to guide the enforcement of tobacco and e-cigarette retailing laws by NSW Health Inspectors.

E-cigarettes to assist smokers to quit

Currently there is not enough clinical evidence that support the use of e-cigarettes to help smokers to quit. 

Nicotine vaping products are 'unapproved' therapeutic goods. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not assessed any e-cigarettes for quality, safety or performance as a smoking cessation aid. 

The TGAhas a range of resources on nicotine vaping products to assist, consumers, prescribers, pharmacies, and wholesalers.

Under the national Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes that make a health claim, such as ‘this product helps smokers to quit’. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers to quit. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also advised that e-cigarettes should not be advertised as a safe alternative to smoking.

NSW Health recommends smokers use approved medications to help them quit smoking, in consultation with their doctors or other health professionals. These products include: Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as patches, lozenges, mouth sprays or gums; Bupropion; and Varenicline.

Alternatively, smokers can get help and support to quit from GPs or pharmacists, the free telephone based counselling service NSW Quitline at 13 7848, and an interactive website iCanQuit.

The current policy and regulatory approach to e-cigarettes in Australia

The Australian Government released national guiding principles for e-cigarettes The guiding principles reflect that governments are taking a precautionary approach to e-cigarettes in Australia and affirm that the current national regulatory framework for these products remains appropriate.

More information

Please visit NSW Health tobacco and smoking control website or contact the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412.

Information on access to nicotine vaping products is available from the TGA.

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council, Electronic Cigarettes, Australia
Current as at: Wednesday 29 September 2021
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health