Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes have been circulating on the market for the past few years now and vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes is increasing. These battery operated devices come in all shapes and sizes used to inhale an aerosol which may contain nicotine.
Using an e-cigarette has been common even among teenagers. This is attributed to the taste and feel of e-liquid or e-juice containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals. With all these hypes, one may ask, are cigarette rules applicable to e-cigarettes?
This article aims to examine policies on health and law of e-cigarettes in Australia. To date, there are no laws in Australia that regulate the use of electronic cigarette other than being registered with the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA). The TGA controls all importation and distribution of electronic cigarettes in Australia.
The country, however, regulates the use of nicotine which is also an ingredient found in some electronic cigarettes, specifically in their disposable cartridges. Nicotine is part of the “Schedule 7 Dangerous Poison”. Schedule 7 poisons are those substances with the high potential to cause harm even at low exposures.
These substances require strict precautions during its manufacturing, handling or use. These substances or poisons should have limited availability to authorized users who have the necessary qualifications to safely handle them. To further elaborate, disposable electronic cigarettes or at least the cartridges that contain nicotine are not available nationwide, but electronic cigarettes without nicotine and non-disposable electronic cigarettes can be sold if they are registered under the TGA.
In Australia, regulations around e-cigarettes are not specific. They vary from state to state.
In beautiful Tasmania, electronic cigarettes are unclassified or not under an existing law. Using electronic cigarettes, with nicotine or not, is considered legal. Importing nicotine for personal use (such as in e-cigarettes) is also legal. Finally, the sale and supply of electronic cigarettes are legal if the company or individual is registered with the TGA.
In Western Australia, electronic cigarettes are regulated under the Tobacco Products Control Act of 2006. Under this law, while it is legal to own and use electronic cigarettes, whether they contain nicotine or not, retailers are not allowed to distribute and sell them. At first, the policy was only applicable to those that resemble cigarettes and tobacco, but the more advanced and creative electronic cigarettes were still allowed. However, courts have recently decided that the actual vaping is the problem, not just the products. Hence, electronic cigarettes are also illegal in areas where smoking is prohibited.
In sunny Queensland, electronic cigarettes are classified and regulated pursuant to the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act of 1998. Using electronic cigarettes without nicotine is legal so is the selling and supplying of them to other people. The irony is that while selling electronic cigarettes is legal, the advertising and displaying of it in retail stores are strictly prohibited and illegal. This is based on the provisions prohibiting the importing of nicotine, even for an individual’s personal use.
New South Wales
In New South Wales, electronic cigarettes have not yet been classified in tobacco-related laws and regulations, so they are still considered as everyday consumer products. The Australian national ban on selling nicotine is still applicable to the state but its import for an individual’s personal use is legal. It is also legal to buy and use electronic cigarettes with nicotine e-liquid. Since vaping is still not considered as smoking, the laws are silent on prohibiting them in public and private places. Establishment owners are given the flexibility to forbid or allow vaping on their premises.
In Victoria, electronic cigarettes are also unclassified under existing smoking laws. However, the selling of nicotine is prohibited under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act of 1981. Nevertheless, electronic cigarettes can be used and there is no smoking ban in the state.
According to the South Australian Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulation of 1991, nicotine can be used and owned if it is not for selling and distribution. The import of nicotine for personal consumption is also legal.
Electronic cigarettes in the Northern Territory are still unclassified under existing tobacco and smoking laws. The use and selling of electronic cigarettes are legal. However, their laws are strict regarding the procurement of nicotine. One must have a permit to import, use and sell the product. They need first to apply.
Australian Capital Territory
In the Australian Capital Territory, electronic cigarettes are still unclassified under existing tobacco and smoking laws. Hence, the use of electronic cigarettes, buying and selling, and importing nicotine is legal. Moreover, its use in private establishments is left to the discretion of the owners.