​Australian Government Vaping Reforms

The Australian Government has announced its intention to take strong action to address vaping in Australia, by introducing a comprehensive range of reforms. These reforms will result in significant changes to the regulatory requirements for the importation, manufacture and supply of vapes in Australia, irrespective of nicotine content or therapeutic claims. 
For the latest information on these reforms please visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration Vaping Hub. ​
Last updated: 22 January 2024

​​​​What are e-cigarettes (or vapes)?

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (also known as e-liquid) to produce an aerosol that users inhale (often called vaping).

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

What are the health harms of e-cigarettes?

  • E-cigarettes may expose users to chemicals and toxins that are harmful to health. 
  • Health authorities should act to minimise harm to ​users and bystan​ders until evidence of safety, quality and efficacy can be produced. 

Evidence demonstrates that e-cigarettes are harmful including for non-smokers, and especially for young people (1). When someone uses an e-cigarette, the substance they inhale can contain over 200 chemicals, including formaldehyde, arsenic, mercury, heavy metals, solvents and volatile organic compounds. These chemicals have been shown to be harmful to health and can cause cancer, heart disease and lung damage. 

Health harms associated with e-cigarette use include nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning, throat irritation, breathlessness, cough, dizziness, headaches, nausea and lung damage. Rechargeable e-cigarettes can also explode causing serious burns and trauma. In rare cases, vaping may cause a life-threatening lung condition known as E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).  ​

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive

 Laboratory testing of seized illegal nicotine e-cigarette products has shown that e-cigarettes labelled 'nicotine-free' can have high nicotine levels. People can think they are using nicotine-free e-cigarettes and can unknowingly quickly develop a nicotine addiction. 

Disposable e-cigarettes that contain even a low number of ‘puffs’ may deliver the same amount of nicotine as 50 cigarettes. Depending on the size of the e-cigarette and nicotine strength, it can be much higher

For young people, nicotine can cause changes to brain development, impaired attention, learning and memory, and may worsen stress, depression and anxiety.

The   NSW Health Vaping Toolkit provides resources and information for young people, parents and carers, and school staff on vaping harms, nicotine addiction and support to quit vaping. 

Keep young children safe around e-cigarettes

A young child can die from very small amounts of nicotine. E-cigarette packaging is not child-proof, and is often colourful with images of cartoons, food, or drinks. Children can easily activate e-cigarettes, particularly if they have watched a family member use them.

  • Do not vape around young children.   
  • Keep vapes out of reach of children.  
  • Keep your home and car smoke and vape free.  
  • Dispose of vapes and vape liquids safely where they cannot be found by children.  

If you think a child may have been exposed to the contents of an e-cigarette, or has inhaled, swallowed or spilled vape liquid on their skin, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 1126.

If a child has collapsed or are not breathing, immediately call 000 for an ambulance. 

 For more information on keeping children safe around e-cigarettes, please refer to the E-cigarette Child Safety Pamphlet.

Is it legal to sell e-cigarettes in NSW?

E-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine are a prescription only medicine. This means 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 is illegal to sell e-liquids and e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. This includes online sales. 

Currently e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal in NSW. Adults aged 18 years and over can buy e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine. 

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. 

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

Do smoke-free environment laws apply to using e-cigarettes (vaping)?

Smoke-free Environment Act 2000​ and  Smoke-free Environment Regulation 2016 the use of e-cigarettes is banned in all areas where smoking is banned. This includes all enclosed public areas and certain outdoor public areas. 

For more information on smoke-free environment laws please refer to Smoke-free laws in NSW. Smoke-free signage and resources can be ordered from NSW Health at Smoke-free environment resources.

For more information on smoke-free environment laws please refer to Smoke-free signage and resources can be ordered from NSW Health at Smoke-free environment resources​.

NSW Health Inspectors conduct regular compliance monitoring and enforcement activity. Inspectors enforce the ban on using e-cigarettes where smoking is not permitted. To report a breach of the smoking/vaping ban, please complete the online reporting form or contact the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412.

Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking 

Since October 2021, liquid nicotine (for example used in e-cigarettes) has been a schedule 4 (prescription only) substance, available for smoking cessation purposes only.

E-cigarettes are 'unapproved' therapeutic goods. This means that the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not assessed any e-cigarette products for quality, safety or performance as a smoking cessation aid. There are established pathways for consumers to legally access unapproved nicotine vaping products, with a valid prescription from a doctor. 

More research is needed to confirm the harms and benefits of using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid (2). There are other proven safe and effective options to help people to quit smoking such as behavioural therapies, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) including patches, gums, lozenges, mouth spray, inhalators, and some prescription medicines. NSW Health recommends people use approved medications to help them quit smoking, in consultation with their doctors or other health professionals. 
​​
NSW Quitline  at 13 7848, or visit the interactive website iCanQuit to seek tailored support to quit smoking. 

More information

  • Please contact the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412. 
  • The NSW Health Vaping Toolkit provides resources and information for young people, parents and carers, and school staff on vaping harms, nicotine addiction and support to quit vaping
  • For the latest information on the Australian Government vaping reforms please visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration Vaping Hub

References


 
Current as at: Monday 22 January 2024
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health