How should Australia regulate nicotine vaping products? – new research

Posted on April 19, 2023 By Colin

NICOTINE VAPING PRODUCTS should be sold to adult smokers from licensed retail outlets without a nicotine prescription in Australia as they are in all other western countries. This was the conclusion of our peer-reviewed study, published today in Drug and Alcohol Review.

The current prescription-only model has been rejected by doctors and consumers and has created a thriving illicit market selling dodgy, mislabeled vape products freely to children and adults.

Getting the balance right

The paramount objective for regulating vaping must be to reduce smoking-related death and disease. Vaping is the most effective quitting aid available for smokers but is not for non-smokers, especially young people.

The challenge for policymakers is to find the optimal balance between making vapes accessible to help adult smokers quit, while restricting access to young people

Regulation should reflect the lower harms of vaping compared to smoking. A much lighter touch regulatory approach than for smoking is required.

How to regulate vaping

Nicotine vaping products should be reclassified as consumer goods, like cigarettes (not as medicines) and regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This would bring Australia into line with all other western countries, such as the UK, NZ, US and Canada.

Nicotine liquids should be sold from specialist vape shops and pharmacies but also from general retail outlets where tobacco products are available. All retailers would require a licence to sell nicotine liquids from State or Territory Health Departments.

Regulations to prevent youth access include strict age verification at the time of purchase with harsh penalties and loss of licence for under-age sales, strict compliance measures and spot checks.

Under this model, the black-market would become less profitable, illicit sales would diminish over time, being largely replaced by a legal, regulated market

Policy details

Well-intentioned but harsh measures to discourage youth vaping often have unintended negative consequences, for example

Policy details should include


Australia’s prescription-only model for vaping has failed to achieve its goals. It has led to widespread non-compliance and created a thriving black market selling unregulated products to adults and young people.

The only way to eliminate a black market is to replace it with a legal, regulated one. A carefully regulated consumer model would make legal vaping accessible for adult smokers, ensure the quality and safety of vaping products, reduce youth vaping, generate substantial taxation and stimulate the economy.


Mendelsohn CP, Wodak A, Hall W. How should nicotine vaping be regulated in Australia? Drug and Alcohol Review 2023

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