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June 20, 20240

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

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Jim McDonald

Government attitudes toward vaping and nicotine vary. In the United Kingdom, vaping has largely been encouraged by government health agencies. Because smoking creates a costly burden for the UK’s National Health Service, the country stands to save both 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, importation, or a combination. What we have attempted 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 signaled 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) 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 outright the sale 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 in-store sales

California now bans the in-store sale of vaping products in flavors other than tobacco—with or without nicotine. The statewide law, approved by voters in 2022, does not ban online sales, but some localities have stricter laws

District of Columbia (D.C.) - flavor ban

The D.C. city council passed a flavor ban on all vaping and tobacco products in 2021.

Georgia - online sales ban

Georgia allows only face-to-face retail transactions of vaping products, so online sales are prohibited

Hawaii - online sales ban from out of state

Hawaii bans online sales from outside the state, except to licensed retailers

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

Nebraska - online sales ban

Nebraska passed an online sales ban in April 2024. It's unclear when it will take effect.

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

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

Oregon - online sales ban

Oregon bans online sales, except between licensed businesses

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. In 2024, the legislature converted the ban from a health department rule to a law

South Dakota - online sales ban

Shipping of all tobacco products (including vapes) is prohibited in South Dakota

Utah - flavor ban + online sales ban

Utah bans online sales, except between licensed businesses. In March 2024, the state passed a ban on vape flavors (other than tobacco and menthol), which will take effect Jan. 1, 2025

Vermont - online sales ban

Vermont bans online sales, except between licensed businesses

Major cities with flavor bans include Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose, CA; and Boulder, CO. Hundreds of smaller cities and counties—mostly in California and Massachusetts—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. Brookline, Massachusetts has passed a so-called generational ban on tobacco and nicotine product sales (including vapes). The city increases the legal age to buy nicotine products by one year each year. No one born after Dec. 31, 1999, can ever buy nicotine products legally in Brookline

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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 sales and possession, others just prohibit 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

Argentina

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Australia

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, and can be severe

Bangladesh

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

Bhutan

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Brazil

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Brunei Darussalam

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Cambodia

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Chile

Legal to use, illegal to sell 

Colombia

Legal to use, illegal to sell (however, the prohibition is widely disregarded)

East Timor

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell

Ethiopia

Believed to be legal to use, illegal to sell

Gambia

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell

Ghana

Legal to use, illegal to sell (except when prescribed by a doctor)

Hong Kong (a Special Administrative Region of China)

Legal to use, illegal to sell since 2022

India

Legal to use, illegal to sell. In September 2019, the Indian central government banned the sale 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

Iran

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell

Jamaica

Legal to use, illegal to sell nicotine-containing products without a medical license

Japan

Legal to use, legal to sell devices and zero-nicotine e-liquid, but 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

Kazakhstan

Legal to use, illegal to sell. (The ban passed in April 2024 took effect June 20, 2024.) The law, which prohibits sale, manufacture and import, also bans imports for personal use.

Kuwait

Believed to be legal to use, illegal to sell

Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos)

Illegal to use, illegal to sell

Lebanon

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Macau (a Special Administrative Region of China)

Possibly legal to use, illegal to sell. In late 2022 a law took effect that bans the manufacture, distribution, sale, import, export, and transport of all vaping products. While personal use may be technically legal, there seems to be no way to acquire products without violating the import or transport bans

Malaysia

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

Mauritius

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Mexico

Probably legal to use, illegal to sell. The Mexican president issued a decree banning sales of all vapes and heated tobacco products in May 2022. The law includes nicotine-free products. It is, however, widely ignored and Mexico has a thriving black market.

Some manufacturers—including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco—and vendors have challenged the government position in court, filing individual complaints and receiving favorable judgements. Unfortunately, these “juicio de amparo” (protection trials) apply only to the specific complainant and the decisions cannot be broadly applied by all sellers. According to Mexican vape advocate Roberto Sussman, the amparo process is difficult and expensive, especially for small businesses

Myanmar

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell 

Nepal

Legal to use, possibly illegal to sell (although the government itself seems unsure)

Nicaragua

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell

North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Oman

Believed to be legal to use, illegal to sell

Palau

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell 

Panama

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Qatar

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Seychelles

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

Singapore

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

Suriname

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Syria

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

Thailand

Believed to be 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 tourists caught vaping

Timor-Leste

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Turkey

Legal to use, illegal to import. Turkey’s laws are conflicting, and there is a vaping market and a vaping community in Turkey

Turkmenistan

Believed to be legal to use, illegal to sell

Uganda

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Uruguay

Legal to use, illegal to sell

Vatican City

Believed to be illegal to use, illegal to sell 

Venezuela

Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell. In August 2023, the Venezuelan health ministry banned the sale and personal use of all vaping and heated tobacco products on order of President Maduro

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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.

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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 13 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue 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’m a member of 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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