Is Nicotine Legal


by Rhys Callender on September 30, 2021

From 1 October 2021, you will no longer be able to legally buy nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine from overseas websites without first getting a medical prescription. What does this mean for you, and how are things going to change?

Up until now, while you’ve not been able to order within Australia, you’ve been able to order nicotine online from overseas, typically from New Zealand, the United States or China. Technically, you’ve always needed a prescription to do this by law, as it falls under the ‘Personal Importation Scheme’, however these laws have never been enforced, until now.

The Federal Government, in consultation with the TGA, have now formally classified nicotine and nicotine containing vaping products as a prescription medicine. Previously, nicotine liquid was not deemed as a medicinal product and was regulated under the Poisons Act, so this in fact is somewhat a step in the right direction, with the government finally acknowledging the benefits and efficacy of vaping as a quitting aid.

Getting a prescription should be relatively easy, and the AMA have stated all GP’s have been notified of the new laws and will be trained appropriately to safely prescribe nicotine. If you find your GP is unaware of this new legislation or you are met with resistance from your local GP, please advise them to consult the Nicotine Vaping-Products Information for Prescribers on the TGA website which should be able to clarify any questions they may have.

We do envisage there will be many uneducated GP’s who simply want nothing to do with prescribing nicotine, so if you are met with further resistance, don’t stress! Jump onto the ATHRA website where you’ll find a list of doctors happy to help you on your quitting journey. If getting to a doctor isn’t possible for you, there is also the option of using one of the online prescribers available, such as Quit Clinics. All Quit Clinics doctors have been approved by the TGA to prescribe nicotine and come highly recommended by ATHRA. Prescriptions will cost approximately $85 for a one year prescription, with a rebate available from Medicare of $39, so an out of pocket expense of $46. There are three types of prescriptions available, and it is important you inform your GP what is most appropriate for you.

Prescription Type 1.
This type of prescription will allow you to import either nicotine containing e-liquid or nicotine concentrate to be used for mixing via the Personal Importation Scheme, very similar to the way we currently order.

Prescription Type 2.
This type of prescription will allow you to purchase nicotine from a compounding pharmacy, however, what is yet to be confirmed is whether you take your juice and they add it or if you can purchase the raw product to add yourself. We will update this article as we learn further information on exactly how obtaining nicotine from a compounding pharmacy will work.

Prescription Type 3.
This type of prescription will only allow you to purchase TGA approved products within Australia (as of yet there are no products approved, so currently not an option.)

When you request your prescription from your GP, they will typically ask you how often you vape (or smoke if you are new to vaping) and the nicotine strength you are currently using. Your GP will then tailor a script for the nicotine concentration and volume you require, with 100mg nicotine base being the strongest that may be prescribed. This script will be valid for one year, and allow you to import up to a three month supply at one time (how this will be accurately gauged is yet to be seen). For example if you use premixed e-liquid, you may tell your GP you use 1 x 30ml bottle of 20mg strength e-liquid per week, therefore, he should write you a script allowing you to order 12 x 30ml e-liquid bottles online at one time.

Whilst we may not agree with the prescription model, unfortunately, at least for now, it is here to stay, and it will allow you to easily and legally source your nicotine or nicotine containing e-liquids. We can only hope that this model will further reinforce the effectiveness of vaping as a quitting aid and in future we will see nicotine containing e-liquids moved from a prescription only to an over the counter product alongside other NRT products such as patches and gums. Request for 100mg nicotine and say that you have vaping experience. 99% of vapers go for this option as it also turns out to be the most cost effective method. One script of 100mg can last you up to 12 months, or more.