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Vape Bans: E-Cigarette Restrictions in the U.S. and Worldwide

Jim McDonald
October 8, 2021

Government attitudes toward vaping and nicotine vary. In the United Kingdom, vaping is essentially encouraged by government health agencies. Because smoking creates a costly burden for the UK’s National Health Service, the country stands to save lives and money if smokers switch to e-cigarettes.

Many other countries also allow a regulated vaping market, but are less enthusiastic about the practice. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had authority over vapor products since 2016, but has refused to create a plain system of standards for e-cigarettes and e-liquids. In recent years, some U.S. states have imposed flavor and online sales bans. Canada somewhat followed the U.K. model for a short time, but has recently imposed nicotine-strength limits and extreme flavor restrictions.

There are more than 40 countries that have some type of ban on vaping—either on possession and use, sales, or importation, or a combination. What we have attempted here is to list U.S. state flavor and online sales bans, and the sales and use bans imposed in other countries.

U.S. bans on flavored vapes and online sales

The FDA has federal authority to regulate vaping products. In September 2020 the agency began reviewing Premarket Tobacco Applications (PMTAs), and has signalled it will not authorize flavored products without extraordinary evidence. Whether the agency will be successful creating an unwritten standard that eliminates legal flavored products (except tobacco and menthol) may be determined by federal courts.

Most vape bans in the U.S. happen at the state and local levels.And while a few California cities—notably San Francisco—have banned sales of all vaping products, most American vape restrictions involve flavors and online sales. There are only a few of each, despite the large number of vaping bans that have been proposed in state legislatures in recent years—proof that grassroots opposition can stop bad legislation.

Arkansas – online sales ban
Tobacco permits issued to Arkansas businesses only allow face-to-face transactions, so online sales are prohibited

California – flavor ban (on hold until 2022)
The California Assembly passed (and the governor signed) a law banning all “flavored tobacco,” including vapes, in August 2020. However, after a massive signature-gathering campaign, the law is on hold until the state’s voters decide whether to approve it in a November 2022 referendum. The law, if it passes, will prohibit all vapes in flavors other than tobacco

Maine – online sales ban
Maine bans online sales, except between licensed businesses

Massachusetts – flavor ban
The first statewide flavor ban was passed in late 2019 by Massachusetts. It includes all tobacco products, and prohibits sales of all vape flavors except tobacco

New Jersey – flavor ban
New Jersey’s ban covers all flavors except tobacco. Legislators decided not to ban menthol cigarettes after realizing how much tax revenue the state would lose. The governor signed the flavor ban and an increased tax on vaping products, but vetoed the attached 20 mg/mL nicotine-strength limit

New York – flavor ban + online sales ban
The New York flavor ban, which covers all flavors except tobacco, was passed in April 2020. The state also adopted an online sales ban (of all vaping products) at the same time

Rhode Island – flavor ban
In March 2020, then-governor Gina Raimondo bypassed the state legislature and used the Department of Health to create a permanent ban on all vape flavors except tobacco

South Dakota – online sales ban
Shipping of all tobacco products (including vapes) is prohibited in South Dakota

Utah – online sales ban
Utah bans online sales, except between licensed businesses

Vermont – online sales ban
Vermont bans online sales, except between licensed businesses

Major cities with flavor bans include Chicago, IL; Oakland and San Jose, CA; and Boulder, CO. Hundreds of smaller cities and counties—mostly in California—have flavor bans, as do some larger cities whose bans have since been superseded by state bans (like New York City and Newark, NJ)

Complete bans on vaping product sales have been adopted by San Francisco and some smaller California cities

Countries that ban vaping product sales or use

In some nations, vaping is completely illegal, including both sales and possession. Prohibition is most common in Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Australia has a bizarre prescription-only model for vaping products, and unauthorized importation can result in huge fines. In Japan, nicotine vaping products are illegal, but heated tobacco products like IQOS are completely legal and widely used.

Some countries have outright bans on use and sales, others just ban sales, and some ban only nicotine-containing products. In many countries, the laws are ignored and black markets flourish. In others, they’re enforced (but those still have black markets too). If a country is not listed, vaping is either allowed and regulated, or there is no specific law governing e-cigarettes (as of now anyway).

This isn’t meant as a definitive legal guide for traveling vapers. If you’re visiting an unfamiliar country you should first check with an up-to-date official source like your country’s state department, or the travel bureau of the country you’re visiting.

Antigua and Barbuda
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to possess nicotine without a doctor’s prescription. Importing nicotine illegally can be punished with fines of up to $222,000. Penalties for possession vary from one state to the next, but can also be quite severe

Bangladesh currently has no laws or regulations specific to vaping. However, in 2021 the government announced it would update the country’s tobacco control law with an outright ban on the sales of e-cigarettes

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell most products

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Illegal to sell, except approved medical products

Legal to use, illegal to sell

East Timor
Believed to be banned

Legal to use, illegal to sell—although the country may be on the verge of regulating vaping products

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Believed illegal to use, illegal to sell

Hong Kong
Legal to use, illegal to sell. The HK Legislative Council passed a ban on sales, importation, manufacture and promotion on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in October 2021

Legal to use, illegal to sell. In September 2019, the Indian central government banned sales of vaping products. The government, well aware that 100 million Indians smoke and that tobacco kills nearly a million people a year, did not make any moves to reduce access to cigarettes. Not coincidentally, the Indian government owns a large share of the country’s largest tobacco company

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, legal to sell devices, illegal to sell nicotine-containing liquid (although individuals can import nicotine-containing products with some restrictions). Heated tobacco products (HTPs) like IQOS are legal and extremely popular

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell nicotine-containing products. Although consumer sales of nicotine-containing products is illegal, Malaysia has a thriving vaping market. Authorities occasionally raid retailers and confiscate products. Sales of all vaping products (even without nicotine) are banned outright in the states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Penang and Terengganu

Legal to use, believed illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to import or sell. In February 2020, Mexican president issued a decree banning the import of all vaping products, including zero-nicotine products. There is, however, still a thriving vaping community in the country, and a large black market

Believed to be banned

Legal to use in private (banned in public), illegal to sell

Believed illegal to use, illegal to sell nicotine

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell. However, the country announced in 2019 its intention to legalize and regulate e-cigarettes

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell. As of 2018, possession of vapes is a crime, punishable by fines and even prison time. However, the threat of prosecution doesn’t prevent a thriving black market

Sri Lanka
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell. Thailand has earned a reputation for enforcing its ban on importation and sales of vaping products with several high-profile incidents in recent years, including detaining and even deporting vaping tourists

Legal to use, illegal to import or sell. Sale and importation of vaping products is illegal in Turkey, and when the country reaffirmed its ban in 2017, the World Health Organization issued a press release cheering the decision. But Turkey’s laws are conflicting, and there is a vaping market and a vaping community in Turkey

Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Legal to use, illegal to sell

United States
Legal to use, legal to sell—but sales of products not authorized by the FDA became technically illegal as of Sept. 9, 2021. Although no state has banned sales of vaping products outright, many have bans on flavored products or online sales. Some California cities, notably San Francisco, have banned all e-cigarette sales

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Vatican City
Believed to be banned

Legal to use, believed illegal to sell, except approved medical products

Sources and updates

Our list is extensive, but maybe not definitive. Laws change frequently, and there is no central repository for information on worldwide vaping laws that is updated in real time. While our list includes some original research, these are the primary sources:

We welcome any new information you may have. If you know of a law that has changed, or a new regulation that affects our list, please make a comment and we will update the list.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy
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Matthew C. Sidwell
Matthew C. Sidwell
2 years ago

All of these bans have to do with taxation and/or infringing on a countries government controlled tobacco business. Funny how you can get a room full of hookers in Thailand but you can’t hit a Juul without being a felon.

2 years ago

Hi, in this case I would like to say that we have tons and tons of vape shops in Colombia, were there is no problem in vaping, even in front of the authorities lol, and is allowed in some clubs.

2 years ago

Hi, Am jordanian living in united arab emirates and am aware of some arabs countries in regard of vape, i guess u need to make a correction to the article with the following: – Jordan: legal to use, illegal to sell. i am travelling frequently to and we are allowed to carry in airports and use in the country. – United Arab Emirates (UAE): legal to use, illegal to sell. i am living im UAE and travelling frequently to ir and we are allowed to carry in airports and use in the country. – Bahrain: was illigal to sell but… Read more »

Bradley kampmann
Bradley kampmann
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

I am a CASAA member, and I have been vaping for 10 years.

2 years ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

You may refer to http://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org for some translated versions, like in the following decree, UAE state trading only not use, then as no law is there to prohibit using vape products then it is allowed:

2 years ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

Hi Jim,

Laws in some countries change at the drop of a hat, so I would agree that caution should always apply everywhere when outside of ones homeland!

Speaking of changes, it has been reported that the UAE will formally legalise selling. Articles from yesterday!

The paper will never contradict the government, or speculate in absolutes, so this can be taken as accurate.

2 years ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

I guess the extra edit “especially in Middle Eastern countries” under “Use caution and do some research!” makes no sense, do you remember your article about Thailand, and I believe India too.

I have never heard about one middle eastern country which took such action!

2 years ago

I don’t see Israel.
Just recently there was a law passing to restrict vaping in Israel.
Please update.

2 years ago

One more for Asia: In the Philippines, vapes are legal to use and sell. No law against them (for now, but impending legislation may change that). Still, that’s the current state of matters.

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