Sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products to minors

Retailers have a strong influence over whether or not children can access cigarettes or e-cigarette products and consequently may become regular 'established' smokers. These laws are designed to ensure that fewer children can access tobacco and e-cigarettes and become addicted to smoking and suffer the damaging health effects of smoking. 

The law

Section 38A of the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Regulation Act 1997 states that it is an offence to sell or supply tobacco products or e-cigarette products to a child (any person under the age of 18 years). 

Tobacco products

A tobacco product is any product that contains tobacco or any other product designed for the purpose of smoking, for example, herbal cigarettes, shisha tobacco, pipes, filters and cigarette papers. Matches and cigarette lighters are not tobacco products.


An e-cigarette is a device that is designed to generate or release an aerosol or vapour for inhalation by its user in a manner similar to the inhalation of smoke from an ignited tobacco product.

E-cigarette liquid

E-cigarette liquid means a liquid of a kind designed or intended for use in an e-cigarette.

Responsible person

The responsible person in relation to the sale or supply of tobacco products and e-cigarette products to a child, is the proprietor of the business or a person who sells or supplies the product on behalf of the proprietor. This makes employers and employees equally responsible for tobacco products sold to children.

Exemption for the sale and supply of lawfully prescribed nicotine to a minor

The national classification of nicotine in the Poisons Standard clarify the regulation of nicotine as a Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine. The effect of the national changes will be that consumers who wish to legally access nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and nicotine vaping products in Australia will require a prescription from an Australian medical practitioner.

To support the lawful sale and supply of nicotine as a Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine, the South Australian Government issued a Proclamation under the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997 so that pharmacists and medical practitioners, who may under the Controlled Substances Act 1984 sell or supply nicotine lawfully prescribed as a Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine, are exempt from the offences related to the ban on sales to minors,  indirect (including online) sales ban and the licence requirement for selling an e-cigarette product. Read more about Exemption for the sale and supply of lawfully prescribed nicotine.

See the Access to Nicotine Products Fact Sheet (236 KB)

Photographic ID and minors

By law a tobacco and e-cigarette retailer or their employee can require a person to produce evidence of their age. Sellers must always ask to see photographic proof of age identification (ID) if they suspect the person to be under 18 years. Good business practice is to ask to see ID of anyone who could be under 25 years of age, as a significant difference can exist between the perceived age of a young person and their actual age. Identification should be in the form of a current photographic:

  • Driver's licence issued under the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 or under a corresponding law of another State or a Territory
  • Proof of Age card issued by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles or by a corresponding public authority of the Commonwealth or another State or a Territory
  • Passport issued by the Commonwealth or under the law of another country.
  • Keypass identification card issued by the Commonwealth Key and Property Register or the Australian Postal Corporation.

If in doubt, ask to see ID!

Minors selling tobacco or e-cigarette products

A person under 18 years of age can sell tobacco and e-cigarette products, however it is not recommended as they may be less confident about asking to see ID or refusing a sale.

Purchasing tobacco or e-cigarettes for minors

It is illegal for anyone to sell or supply tobacco or e-cigarette products to someone under 18 years. Retailers should refuse to sell tobacco or e-cigarette products if they have reason to believe that person is purchasing them to sell or supply to someone under 18 years of age.


Expiation fees (on-the-spot fines) apply for the sale or supply of tobacco products to children. The expiation fee is $1,200.

For a Responsible Person, the maximum penalty for a first offence is $20,000 and for a second or subsequent offence it is $40,000. In other cases, the maximum penalty is $5,000.

The Minister for Health and Wellbeing can also suspend or cancel a Retail Tobacco and E-Cigarette Merchant's Licence if the holder has contravened the Act or is no longer considered, for any reason, a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

Retailer's training obligations

Anyone engaged in selling tobacco or e-cigarette products must be given adequate training on how to avoid selling tobacco or e-cigarette products to children. This includes training any relatives or friends who might occasionally work in the business as well as paid employees.

Retails much ensure that all staff know:

  • What procedures they must follow if a customer becomes difficult when asked to produce ID. Role-playing some of the situations that might arise can assist staff in this area.
  • The consequences if they are found to have sold tobacco or e-cigarette products to a child. Staff must be regularly reminded about these procedures. Retailers may find it helpful to develop a store. 


All tobacco and e-cigarette retailers are legally required to display the A4 sized Sale of Tobacco Products and E-Cigarette Products sign (commonly referred to as a 'prescribed notice'). This sign is a reminder to customers and retailers that it is an offence to sell or supply tobacco or e-cigarette products to people under 18 years of age and that proof of age may be sought before a purchase is made. The sign must be displayed in a manner and position that is likely to attract the attention of the customer, near the point of sale (including, for tobacco products a vending machine).

Not displaying this sign can incur a maximum penalty of $1250 or an expiation fee of $160.

See the tobacco signage page for downloadable copies or contact SA Health's Health Protection Operations on (08) 8226 7100 to arrange for copies to be sent to you.

Tobacco and vape reporting form – feedback or complaints

You can complete the online Tobacco and vape reporting form to provide feedback or make a complaint related to:

  • the illegal sale of vape products (eg vapes containing nicotine, sales to a minor, unlicensed business)
  • the illegal sale of tobacco products (eg chop chop, sale to a minor, unlicensed business)
  • smoking or vaping in designated smoke-free areas
  • advertising and promotion
  • display of tobacco products at point of sale
  • packaging.

Further information

For further information on selling tobacco products to minors, contact SA Health's Health Protection Operations via