The Challenging Legal Hurdles for Australian Vapers

For those who vape, Australia must be one of the least permissive nations in the world in which vaping isn’t banned outright. You’re welcome to vape, and you can even vape nicotine if you want. The only catch is that you can’t obtain the e-liquid anywhere in Australia. Every nation handles vaping in its own way, and to the outside observer, Australian regulation of the vaping industry looks very strange indeed. Those who want nicotine will always find a way to get it, though, and nowhere is that truer than in the Land Down Under. In this article, we’re going to explore the interesting case of Australian vaping and learn more about the challenges that Australian vapers face if they want to use nicotine.

What’s the Problem With Buying Nicotine E-Liquid in Australia?

Australia treats all types of nicotine – except cigarettes and approved smoking cessation products – as poisons and controlled substances. E-liquid containing nicotine falls under the same law. As such, it isn’t legal to buy nicotine e-liquid at a standard retail point of sale anywhere in Australia because it is a controlled substance.

Australia classifies nicotine as a Schedule 7 drug, which means that it is a “dangerous drug” with a high potential for harm even at low levels of exposure. If you have a doctor’s prescription, however, nicotine becomes a Schedule 4 drug. Schedule 4 drugs are substances that are only available with a prescription. Once you have a prescription, your options for buying nicotine e-liquid increase considerably.

I Need a Doctor’s Prescription to Buy Nicotine E-Liquid?

Yes. If you want to buy nicotine e-liquid in Australia, you do need a doctor’s prescription to be fully compliant with the law. The Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association website has a page that walks doctors through the process of writing a nicotine prescription. If your doctor is reluctant to prescribe nicotine for therapeutic use, consider directing him or her to the ATHRA website.

If you’ve looked online for nicotine e-liquid, you already know that there are plenty of online retailers willing to ship e-liquid to Australia. Buying nicotine e-liquid online, in fact, is one of the two options you have for buying nicotine e-liquid in Australia legally. You’ve probably also noticed that online retailers generally will not ask for a copy of your prescription before shipping e-liquid to you – but that’s only because confirming the validity of your prescription is not the seller’s responsibility. If you buy e-liquid from an overseas vendor, there is always a chance that a customs agent could ask to see your prescription before releasing the shipment to you. You would be wise to obtain a prescription before you begin ordering e-liquid.

What Options Are Available for Buying Nicotine E-Liquid in Australia?

Once you have a prescription, you have two options for buying nicotine e-liquid. The first option is to buy it from a compounding pharmacy. There aren’t a lot of compounding pharmacies in Australia, but you can probably find one near you if you live in a major metropolitan area. The only catch is that the product you receive may not bear a strong resemblance to traditional e-liquid. It’ll likely have no added flavor, and it may even contain water. The product will probably only work in a mouth-to-lung vaping device, and you probably will not be able to customize your nicotine strength. Nevertheless, that option is available to you if you want to buy nicotine e-liquid in Australia without waiting for shipping.

Your second option is to order your e-liquid from a supplier based overseas in a nation such as the United Kingdom or New Zealand. With a prescription, you are free to import a limited quantity of nicotine for personal therapeutic use. You can import no more than a three month’s supply of nicotine in an individual shipment and no more than a 15 month’s supply per year. The law doesn’t clarify exactly what constitutes a month’s supply of nicotine, so you’re probably fine even if you’re a sub-ohm device user who goes through a lot of e-liquid. It’s likely that the quantity limit is in place to prevent people from importing controlled substances for illegal resale.

Is Black Market E-Liquid a Problem in Australia?

Yes. In 2019, Vice reported that many Australians pay little attention to the laws about how to obtain nicotine e-liquid legally. Some people are unaware that they need prescriptions to buy nicotine, and others ignore the law because buying e-liquid online is so easy. There are also reports of certain tobacconists in Australia importing bulk liquid nicotine and mixing their own e-liquids illegally. Obviously, anyone caught selling e-liquid illegally in Australia faces the potential of a very stiff penalty.

How Can I Buy Nicotine E-Liquid Legally in Australia?

If you want to vape in Australia – and you want to use e-liquid with nicotine – our strong suggestion is that you obey the letter of the law. Remember, also, that we have only discussed Australia’s national nicotine laws in this article. Your state may also have its own laws governing where and how you can buy and use vaping products. Learning and complying with all applicable vaping laws is your responsibility.

To buy nicotine e-liquid legally in Australia, you need to do three things:

  • Obtain a doctor’s prescription for the therapeutic use of liquid nicotine. Again, the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association provides information to help walk doctors through this process.
  • Buy your e-liquid within Australia from a compounding pharmacy or outside Australia from a retailer that ships e-liquid to Australia.
  • Buy no more than a three month’s supply of e-liquid at any one time and no more than a 15 month’s supply in a year.

If you do those three things, you should never have to worry about angry customs agents seizing your e-liquid shipments. We would also like to stress that, although e-liquid is reportedly available under the counter at some Australian tobacconists, we strongly recommend that you do not ask about or attempt to buy such e-liquid. It isn’t just illegal; it’s also a situation in which you know nothing about the sanitation or quality control behind the manufacturing of the products.

Author: Jason Artman

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