February 6, 2024

Changes to vaping rules in Australia

Vape device close up

You might have heard Australia is ‘banning’ vaping.

But what does this mean? And what effect will the changes have?

Here, we breakdown the changes that are happening – and what you can do if you, or someone you know, are impacted.

What’s changing?

From January 1, 2024, the Australian Government banned the importation of disposable vapes into Australia.

This includes vapes with and without nicotine. Disposable vapes are e-cigarette devices that can’t be recharged, or reused.1

And from March 1, 2024, other requirements will be introduced including:

  • a ban on the importation of all vapes (including rechargeable) without an import licence and permit
  • specific product requirements for imported vapes, with flavours limited to mint, menthol or tobacco.1

Some therapeutic vapes will be allowed. These are vapes prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner for someone quitting smoking, or managing a nicotine dependence (addiction).1

The Government has also opened another scheme to give more medical practitioners the ability to prescribe therapeutic vapes, when they think it is appropriate.1

People with a prescription will no longer be able to import vapes directly from overseas (through the Personal Importation Scheme). Instead, they will be available at some authorised pharmacies and an import permit will be required for pharmacies or their suppliers to bring any e-cigarettes (with or without nicotine) into the country.1

To find out more about the changes visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) website or explainer for patients.

Why are vaping regulations changing in Australia?

There is growing concern around young people vaping.2

While there’s a lack of current data on how many people are vaping in Australia, the stats we do have show the numbers are growing – from 4.4% in 2016 to 9.7% in 2019.3

And use appears to be more common in young people:

  • In 2022-23, 12.9% of students surveyed, aged between 12-15, had vaped in the last month; compared to 22.1% of 16-17 years old.4
  • In 2022, 66% of study participants aged 13-19 had tried vaping.5
  • In 2021, 32% of 14-17 year olds surveyed in NSW had ever used an e-cigarette.6
  • In 2022, 14% of national survey respondents, aged 15-30, reported currently using a vape.7

In early 2023, the TGA asked for feedback on potential reforms to the regulation of nicotine vapes in Australia.

All state and territory governments supported tighter border controls for vapes, and there was strong support for banning disposable vapes.8 You can read more about the feedback on the TGA website.

What can I do if I currently vape?

If you, or someone in your life, wants to use nicotine vapes to stop smoking or manage a nicotine dependence, talk to a GP.

They may issue a prescription for accessing e-cigarettes legally or provide you with other support and guidance.

There’s also a range of resources and services that can help people interested in quitting. See our information on helping young people to quit, and the resources listed below.

Many vapes sold illegally at retail stores or online without a prescription don’t state they contain nicotine - even though they do.9,10

For some young people who vape, this may mean they’re dependent on nicotine without realising it.

That’s a problem, because when someone stops using nicotine they go into withdrawal.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • cravings
  • having trouble concentrating
  • sleep problems
  • feeling sad or depressed.11

These symptoms usually peak in the first few days after someone stops using nicotine and they start to reduce in the weeks following.

For help and support, see the resources listed below.

What impact will the vaping reform changes have?

The Government hopes these changes will stop the growing black market for vapes, and reduce accessibility by teens.12

How effective the changes will be remains to be seen. And thorough data collection will be needed to understand the impacts.

Reducing the accessibility of illicit vapes will depend on how well importation and sales restrictions are enforced.

Recognising this, the Government has announced a new national enforcement framework – and additional funding over the next two years to introduce and enforce the changes, including:

  • $25 million to Australian Border Force
  • $56.9 million to the TGA.13

Other initiatives are also needed to address vaping by young people, including:

  • improved education
  • better support pathways
  • consultation with young people.14

It’s also important that young people aren’t criminalised for possessing a nicotine vape without a prescription.

Currently there are criminal penalties in place in each state and territory and these aren’t expected to change.

While penalties will remain in place, the Australian Government has stated it won’t seek to criminalise people for possessing a vape without a prescription for personal use.1

That’s a positive move, as we know the criminalisation of substances causes harm, particularly to young and vulnerable populations. Impacts can include:

  • inability to get a job due to having a criminal record
  • experiences of stigma and discrimination
  • overall negative impacts on wellbeing.15

Decriminalisation can reduce these harms.

You can read more in our updated Position Paper on vaping.

Help and resources

  1. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). New regulation of vapes starting January 2024. 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://www.tga.gov.au/news/media-releases/new-regulation-vapes-starting-january-2024.
  2. Gartner C. Will the latest vaping reforms find the right balance and what will they mean for recreational vapers? The University of Queensland [Internet]. 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://stories.uq.edu.au/contact-magazine/2023/will-the-latest-vaping-reforms-find-the-right-balance/index.html.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. 2020 [24.01.2024]. Available from: [https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/3564474e-f7ad-461c-b918-7f8de03d1294/aihw-phe-270-NDSHS-2019.pdf.aspx?inline=true.
  4. Scully M, Bain E, Koh I, Wakefield M, Durkin S, Cancer Council Victoria. ASSAD 2022/2023: Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco and e-cigarettes 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-11/secondary-school-students-use-of-tobacco-and-e-cigarettes-2022-2023.pdf.
  5. Connolly H. Vaping Survey: Key Findings - What do young people in South Australia think about current responses to vaping and how to better respond? 2022 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://www.ccyp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Screen-Vaping-Survey-Key-Findings-Report.pdf.
  6. Watts C, Egger S, Dessaix A, Brooks A, Jenkinson E, Grogan P, et al. Vaping product access and use among 14-17-year-olds in New South Wales: a cross-sectional study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, [Internet]. 2022 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://adf.on.worldcat.org/oclc/9627002397.
  7. Pettigrew S, Miller M, Alvin Santos J, Raj T, Brown K, Jones A. E-cigarette attitudes and use in a sample of Australians aged 15-30 years. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, [Internet]. 2023 [24.01.2024]; 47(2):[100035 p.]. Available from: https://adf.on.worldcat.org/oclc/9817626074.
  8. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Proposed reforms to the regulation of nicotine vaping products. 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://consultations.tga.gov.au/medicines-regulation-division/proposed-reforms-to-the-regulation-of-nicotine-vap/.
  9. Jongenelis MI. Challenges and opportunities associated with e-cigarettes in Australia: A qualitative study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, [Internet]. 2023 [24.01.2024]; 47(1). Available from: https://adf.on.worldcat.org/oclc/9771306191.
  10. Therapeutic Goods Administration. Potential reforms to the regulation of nicotine vaping products: Consultation paper. 2022 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://consultations.tga.gov.au/medicines-regulation-division/proposed-reforms-to-the-regulation-of-nicotine-vap/user_uploads/tga-consultation-paper---nicotine-vaping-products---nov-22-1.pdf.
  11. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Is nicotine addictive? 2022 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/nicotine-addictive.
  12. Department of Health and Aged Care. Taking action on smoking and vaping. 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/taking-action-on-smoking-and-vaping.
  13. Department of Health and Aged Care. Next steps on vaping reforms. 2023 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/next-steps-on-vaping-reforms.
  14. Gartner C. How do you solve a problem like youth vaping? Drug and Alcohol Review [Internet]. 2023 [24.01.2024]; 42(5):[1298-300 pp.]. Available from: https://adf.on.worldcat.org/oclc/9923586273.
  15. Law Reform Road and Community Safety Committee. Inquiry into drug law reform: Parliament of Victoria; 2018 [24.01.2024]. Available from: https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2018-03/apo-nid138586_1.pdf.

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