Vapes have been under an increasingly fierce spotlight over the past few years as concerns over young people taking up the habit grow.
The Health Minister Mark Butler has recently argued that what were once passed off as smoking cessation devices are now plaguing children with their addictive flavours and bright colours.
As such, the government is set to crack down on vaping and make them illegal… uh, again.
The new rules, which are yet to be finalised, will be brought into the country soon, likely before the end of the year.
Already, people who vape, those who sell the products, and health experts who advocate for their use are panicking. At the same time, other health experts and top medical bodies have praised the changes, saying it will prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts.
However, the rules around vaping are already slightly confusing, owing to multiple layers of government regulation and regional variation.
So, in plain and simple terms, here’s what you need to know about vaping in Australia.
Is Vaping Illegal in Australia?
In general terms, yes, it is illegal to vape in Australia.
However, there are a number of caveats to that statement.
Vapes containing nicotine are illegal to import, buy, or sell unless they have been prescribed by a doctor, in accordance with the Therapeutic Goods Administration ruling of 2021.
Nicotine itself is considered a “dangerous poison” and a Schedule 7 drug. In much the same way it would be illegal to possess, for example, arsenic, it is also illegal to have nicotine.
Anyone caught importing, attempting to import, or possessing nicotine vaping products without a prescription can be charged with a maximum penalty of $222,000 by Federal Police.
Of course, if you have a prescription, then it’s perfectly legal to vape. It is however illegal to buy nicotine or a nicotine-containing product even with a prescription unless you import it from overseas or buy it from a pharmacy.
Rules around the use of vaping devices vary from state to state, and it’s worth checking yours, but in general terms, they fall under public cigarette rules.
This means, like cigarettes, no one under the age of 18 can buy a vape and vapes can’t be used in places where you wouldn’t smoke a cigarette.
Those enforcing public vaping laws would typically be state and territory police. Fines and penalties for the possession of a vape containing nicotine vary across each jurisdiction. The maximum limit of these fines ranges from $1,817 in Victoria to $68,925 in Queensland.
However, one of the key issues with vaping is that the laws are often misunderstood and rarely enforced, despite repeated attempts at ‘cracking down’ on their usage and sale. As such, The Latch could find no evidence of a person being penalised for simply using a vape in public.
Health Minister Mark Bulter has said that even after the new laws come into place, people who vape in public will not be targeted by police. He told ABC Radio Adelaide that there are no laws currently in place that penalise people using vapes.
“The laws focus on vendors, not on people, not on customers, certainly not on kids, and that’s what we want to see enforced,” he said.
So, while it is technically illegal to have and to use a vape containing nicotine without a prescription in Australia, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever get in trouble for it. At least, not with the police.