• From 1 July 2018, under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 and the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017, people cannot use 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.
  • The sale and use of e-liquid nicotine, including in e-cigarettes, is against the law.
  • 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.
Last updated: 04 October 2018

NSW Health’s position on e-cigarettes

NSW Health supports the updated statement on e-cigarettes from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)which was released in April 2017. 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.

For more information on the statement, please visit the NHMRC.

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes or 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, 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.

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.

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

Under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 people cannot use 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.

For more information, please visit smoke-free law in NSW.

Enforcement

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.
 
Signs which comply with the requirements under the regulation are available to order free of charge from NSW Health. Otherwise, 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 may also contain potentially harmful chemicals which are not present in smoke from tobacco cigarettes.1

E-cigarettes are often labeled incorrectly and may contain nicotine, even when they claim not to contain nicotine. E-cigarettes may contain high levels of nicotine, which may cause poisoning if swallowed.

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 the sale and purchase of e-cigarettes and accessories in NSW.

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. Further information is available at the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

If you see an e-cigarette or e-liquid that is labeled as containing nicotine, you can report this to the NSW Ministry o fHealth by email MOH-ECigs@health.nsw.gov.au

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.

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
  • 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.

Principles that underpin the current policy and regulatory approach to e-cigarettes in Australia

The Australian Government released the 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. For more information, please refer to the national guiding principles for e-cigarettes.

For more information

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

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council, Electronic Cigarettes, Australia.
  2. NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008
Page Updated: Thursday 4 October 2018
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health