Electronic cigarettes in Western Australia

Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes – also known as 'vapes') are battery-powered devices which heat a liquid containing chemicals and flavouring into an aerosol which is inhaled through a mouthpiece, and then exhaled by the user.

The liquid is often called ‘e-liquid’, ‘e-juice’, or ‘vape juice’ and is intended to deliver chemicals directly to the lungs.

The devices come in many shapes and sizes, and some have mimicked traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes in appearance. Others may look like everyday items such as pens, highlighters or USB memory sticks.

What is in an e-cigarette?

E-cigarettes can contain water, flavours, solvents and nicotine. Chemicals found in e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and the aerosol smoke or “vapour” that they generate include: very fine particles; heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as naphthalene, found in mothballs. All of these are known to be toxic, including chemicals that can cause cancer.

Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is the highly addictive and poisonous chemical also found in tobacco. Even though an e-cigarette’s packaging might say it is nicotine-free, testing has shown that many e-cigarettes sold in Australia are labelled incorrectly and in fact do contain nicotine.

E-liquids can come in thousands of different flavours, such as tobacco, confectionery, fruit and other flavours. 

Sale of e-cigarettes

Tobacco Products Control Act 2006

In Western Australia, a person must not sell a product that is designed to resemble a tobacco product. It is the Department of Health’s view that e-cigarette devices and their components, and whether (in the case of components) they are sold separately or not, constitute products that are designed to resemble tobacco products. Any person selling e-cigarettes and vaping products, or their components, may be liable for offences under the  Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 (external site).

E-cigarette and e-cigarette components can include (but are not limited to) any of the following:

  • E-cigarette devices that can be refilled, sold as complete kits.
  • Parts of e-cigarette devices sold separately such as pods, tanks, mods, coils and integrated batteries.
  • E-cigarette devices pre-filled with an e-liquid (with or without nicotine).
  • E-liquid and/or e-juice for use in an e-cigarette device (with or without nicotine).

The penalty for a breach of the relevant provisions of the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 for a first offence by an individual is a maximum fine of up to $10,000, and for a first offence by a company is up to $40 000. These maximum penalties may be doubled for a second or subsequent offence.

Medicines and Poisons Act 2014

Nicotine is a dangerous poison, even in small quantities, and its lawful manufacture, supply and possession in WA is strictly regulated in Western Australia under the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 (external site).

It is an offence for any person to manufacture, supply, prescribe or possess a product containing nicotine without an appropriate licence or professional authority or prescription, as applicable. The penalty for a breach of the relevant provisions of the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 is a maximum $45,000 fine. Nicotine vaping products can be prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and may only be dispensed by a registered pharmacist. An e-cigarette device designed and intended for delivery of nicotine may be supplied by a registered pharmacy, for use with prescribed nicotine products, as part of a medically supervised smoking cessation program.

If you suspect someone is selling e-cigarettes or nicotine vaping products, you can report it to the Department of Health by emailing vape.report@health.wa.gov.au

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) information

The Australian TGA (external site) announced changes to national laws being implemented in stages from 1 January 2024, to place stronger controls on the importation, manufacture, and supply of all vaping products (with or without nicotine).

Electronic cigarettes in public areas

E-cigarettes are relatively new products and the long-term safety and health effects associated with their use and exposure to second-hand vapour are still unknown.

E-cigarettes have recently been the cause of disputes in some public places due to the confusion and disturbance they may cause if used in areas where smoking is not allowed.

Owners/managers may choose to implement a policy applying to their premises which prohibits the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited.

Possible wording for such a policy:

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other personal vaporisers for delivery of nicotine or other substances are not permitted to be used in any area where smoking is restricted.

Last reviewed: 12-01-2024
Produced by

Tobacco Control Branch