Proposed regulation of e-cigarettes in South Australia

The Final Report of the South Australian Parliament’s Select Committee on E-cigarettes has recommended that e-cigarettes be regulated in the interests of public health. The Final Report proposes that the sale, use and promotion of e-cigarette products be regulated in line with the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 (the Act).

The South Australian Government accepts those Select Committee recommendations that can be implemented legally and effectively through amendments to the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997. The Government proposes to regulate the sale, use and promotion of e-cigarettes in South Australia.

It is important to note that the Government’s response in regulating e-cigarettes in South Australia is focused on protecting the community from the potential harms of e-cigarettes and reducing the likelihood that children will be attracted to these devices. It is not intended to limit the sale of e-cigarettes if they were approved to be sold as quitting aids in the future. Any individual or company can make an application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to have a product approved for commercial supply in Australia as a therapeutic good.

What will the proposed changes mean?

The Government proposes to regulate e-cigarettes by making amendments to the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997. The Tobacco Products Regulation (E-Cigarette Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017 would amend the Act to define e-cigarette products separately from tobacco products, but apply similar regulation.

Under the proposed changes in relation to sale, use and promotion, it would be an offence:

  • to sell or supply e-cigarette products to a person under the age of 18 years;
  • to sell e-cigarette products by retail without a licence;
  • to advertise and promote e-cigarette products, (including through sponsorship, competitions and rewards);
  • for e-cigarette products to be displayed at the point of sale;
  • to use e-cigarettes in public places that are currently smoke-free under the Act, including in a motor vehicle if a child under the age of 16 years is present;
  • to sell e-cigarette products by indirect orders (including as internet sales);
  • to sell e-cigarette products from temporary outlets, sales trays and vending machines.

To view the Tobacco Products Regulation (E-Cigarette Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017 (PDF 73KB)

How will the e-cigarette licensing scheme work? 

It is proposed that the licence scheme for e-cigarette retailers will be integrated into the same scheme that operates for tobacco products. If a retailer who sells both e-cigarettes and tobacco products already has a tobacco licence, their licence for selling tobacco will also enable them to sell e-cigarettes. However, if a retailer does not already have a tobacco licence, they will need to obtain a licence to sell e-cigarettes. Retailers will be required to hold a licence from the day the law comes into effect.

Further information about the current retail tobacco licence.

Who will cover the costs of e-cigarette retailers having to comply with restrictions on retail displays?

The Government proposes to regulate e-cigarettes in line with tobacco products under the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997. This means that retail displays of e-cigarette products would be prohibited. It will be the responsibility of e-cigarette retailers to ensure that they comply with these requirements. When tobacco retailers were required to stop displaying tobacco products they were responsible for meeting the costs associated with covering up their displays.

Will customers be able to try using e-cigarettes inside e-cigarette retail stores?

The proposed regulation on e-cigarettes in South Australia includes banning the use of these products in areas that are currently smoke-free under the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997. This means that the Act would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in all enclosed workplaces. Like most other Australian jurisdictions that have regulated the use of e-cigarettes, customers will be prevented from using these products inside retail outlets.

Will e-cigarette retailers be banned from selling their products online?

In line with the South Australian Parliament’s Select Committee on E-cigarettes recommendation, it is proposed that the sale of e-cigarettes through any indirect means, such as online or by telephone will be prohibited. This restriction will assist in reducing access to these products by children.

Why can’t consumers buy nicotine to use in e-cigarettes?

Nicotine is considered a dangerous poison under the national Poisons Standard and its access is restricted as a controlled substance under all state and territory legislation. In 2017, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) rejected an application to have nicotine exempted from Schedule 7 of the Poison Standard so that it can be used in e-cigarettes. The reasons given for this decision by the TGA include that there is little evidence of the long-term safety of nicotine exposure through e-cigarettes and that increased access to the liquid would pose a health risk, particularly to children through unintentional ingestion. This decision does not impact on any individual making an application to the TGA to approve an e-cigarette product as an aid for smoking cessation in the future.

What consultation has occurred about these new laws?

There has been a range of opportunities for the community to express views on the regulation of e-cigarettes. The Parliamentary Select Committee conducted extensive consultation with both e-cigarette related businesses and public health stakeholders. In addition to calling e-cigarette advocates as witnesses, the Select Committee received submissions from both e-cigarette retailers and from people in the community who use e-cigarettes. SA Health also engaged with South Australian business peak bodies, health and research organisations on the proposed regulations.

Is it true that UK studies have shown e-cigs are 95% safer than combustible tobacco products?

It is global expert public health opinion that the long-term health effect of e-cigarettes are still unknown and that they should be regulated to protect public health. In April 2017, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released its latest CEO Statement advising that ‘although a 2014 study reported that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, this finding was based on opinion rather than empirical evidence’. The NHMRC states that currently there is insufficient evidence to support claims around the safety of e-cigarettes and further research is needed to assess their long-term safety, quality and efficacy.

The World Health Organization has stated in 2016 that ‘no specific figure about how much “safer” the use of these products is compared to smoking can be given any scientific credibility at this time.’

What is the government doing to support smokers to stop smoking cigarettes?

Recently released data shows that South Australia has some of the lowest adult daily smoking rates in the nation. The South Australian Government continues to drive down smoking rates amongst all South Australians by delivering quit smoking messages through a state-wide media campaign, providing smoking cessation support services, smoking prevention education in schools and also regulates to protect non-smokers from exposure to tobacco smoke in public places. Our State aims to reduce the prevalence of daily smoking in the population to 8% by 2020.

Further information on smoking and quitting.


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