Current legal position on E-Cigarettes

Medsafe has not approved any e-cigarette for sale in New Zealand. Therefore, E-Cigarettes can not be sold as medical devices.  It is also illegal to sell an e-cigarette (with or without nicotine) that claims to help smokers quit, or an e-cigarette that looks like a tobacco product (or smoker's pipe) to a person under 18 years old.

Here are statements from the Department of Health:

What is the current legislation for e-cigarettes?

The Medicines Act 1981 (Medicines Act) and the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (SFEA) regulate the sale, advertising and use of e-cigarettes and the liquids used in e-cigarettes.

It is illegal to sell an e-cigarette in New Zealand (with or without nicotine) while making a therapeutic claim (eg, claims to help smokers quit) but the product has not been approved for therapeutic use.

The Medicines Act regulates medicines and nicotine is a scheduled substance. No nicotine-containing e-cigarettes have been put forward for approval under the Medicines Act and there are currently no e-cigarettes (nor e-liquid) approved for therapeutic purposes and smoking cessation support. Only approved medicines can be advertised and sold. It is also illegal to advertise an overseas website where people can purchase nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or e-liquids.

Nicotine-containing e-cigarette products are tobacco products if they are manufactured from tobacco. The SFEA regulates the sale, supply and advertising of tobacco products.

The SFEA specifically prohibits the sale of tobacco products for other oral use (other than smoking). The use of tobacco-derived nicotine-containing e-cigarette falls within this definition and the sale of these products are prohibited.

Finally, the SFEA provides that products that look like tobacco products (toy tobacco products) and that can be used to simulate smoking, must not be sold to persons under the age of 18. Apart from this requirement, nicotine-free e-cigarettes can be sold freely in New Zealand.

Under The Medicines Act and the SFEA, people can import nicotine-containing e-cigarette products for their own use only. This is generally considered to be up to a 3 months' supply. These imported products cannot be supplied, sold or be given away to anyone else.

What are the requirements for importers and retailers of e-cigarettes?

Seek independent advice from your legal advisor for your specific circumstances.

The regulation of e-cigarettes (including types marketed as electronic shisha, electronic hookahs, pens or vapes etc.) in New Zealand comes primarily under the Medicines Act 1981 and the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and its Regulations. Both acts are available on the website:

Note that it is prohibited:

  • under the Medicines Act 1981 to advertise, sell and distribute nicotine-free and nicotine-containing e-cigarettes for therapeutic purposes without these products being approved by Medsafe
  • under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 to advertise, sell and distribute e-cigarettes that contain nicotine derived from tobacco, including nicotine-containing e-liquids
  • under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 to sell, supply and distribute e-cigarettes which look like a tobacco product (toy tobacco product) to people under 18 years of age.

Other legislation may also apply to the advertising, selling and distribution of e-cigarettes depending on the circumstances. They include the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the Customs and Excise Act 1996.

If you have any doubts about your legal obligations as an importer or a retailer of e-cigarettes, you should seek independent legal advice.

It is the manufactures’, importers’ and retailers’ responsibility to ensure compliance with all legislative requirements.