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Vape Bans: Which Countries Restrict E-Cigarettes?

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

Most 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 authority over vapor products, but has spent the last eight years trying to create a working regulatory system. Canada has somewhat followed the U.K. model, but as in America, its provinces are free to make their own rules that sometimes conflict with the goals of the federal government.

There are more than 40 countries that have some type of ban on vaping—either use, sales or importation, or a combination. In some nations, vaping is completely illegal, including both sales and possession. Prohibition is most common in Asia, the Middle East, and South America, although the most famous nicotine ban belongs to Australia. Some countries are confusing. For example, vaping in Japan is legal and products are sold, except e-liquid with nicotine, which is illegal. But heat-not-burn tobacco products like IQOS are completely legal and widely used.

It’s difficult to track all the changes in vaping laws. What we have attempted here is a rundown of the countries that have bans or serious restrictions on vaping or vapor products. There are brief explanations. This isn’t meant as a guide for traveling vapers. If you’re visiting an unfamiliar country you should first check with an up-to-date and reliable source like your country’s embassy, or the travel bureau of the country you’re visiting.

Why do countries ban vaping?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its tobacco control arm the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)—a global treaty organization with more than 180 member countries—have encouraged restrictions and bans on e-cigarettes since the earliest products began arriving on European and U.S. shores in 2007. The WHO is a powerful (and often the most powerful) influence on health and smoking policies in many countries—especially in poorer countries, where the WHO funds programs that employ many public health professionals.

The FCTC itself is steered by advisers from American anti-smoking organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids—even though the U.S. is not a party to the treaty. Because these groups oppose vaping and other tobacco harm reduction products, that is the position that’s been adopted by the FCTC, with dire results for smokers in many countries. The FCTC advises its members (most countries) to ban or harshly regulate e-cigarettes, despite the treaty’s founding document listing harm reduction as a desirable strategy for tobacco control.

Most countries depend on tobacco sales, and especially cigarette sales, for tax revenue. In some cases, government officials are honest about their choice to ban or restrict vaping products to preserve tobacco income. Often governments choose to include vapes in their tobacco products regulation, which makes it simpler to impose punitive taxes on consumers. For example, when Indonesia imposed a 57 percent tax on e-cigarettes, a finance ministry official explained that the purpose of the levy was “to limit the consumption of vapes.”

Public vaping is restricted in most countries just like cigarette smoking. If you’re wondering if you can vape in public, you can usually spot another vaper or smoker and ask (or gesture). When in doubt, just don’t do it. Where vaping is illegal, you had better be sure the laws won’t be enforced before you start puffing.

Where are vapor products banned or restricted?

Our list is extensive, but maybe not definitive. Laws change regularly, and although communication between advocacy organizations is improving, there is still no central repository for information on vaping laws around the world. Our list comes from a combination of sources: the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report from British harm reduction advocacy organization Knowledge-Action-Change, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Tobacco Control Laws website, and the Global Tobacco Control site created by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The status of some countries was determined by original research.

Some of these countries have outright bans on use and sales, others just ban sales, and some ban only nicotine or nicotine-containing products. In many countries, the laws are ignored. In others, they’re enforced. Again, check with a reliable source before traveling to any country with vaping gear and e-liquid. 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).

We welcome any new information. 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.

The Americas

Antigua and Barbuda
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Argentina
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Brazil
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Chile
Illegal to sell, except approved medical products

Colombia
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Mexico
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 advocacy leadership by consumer group Pro-Vapeo Mexico. It isn’t yet known if the government will attempt to seize products brought into the country by visitors

Nicaragua
Believed illegal to use, illegal to sell nicotine

Panama
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Suriname
Legal to use, illegal to sell

United States
Legal to use, legal to sell—but sales of products produced after Aug.8, 2016 are prohibited without a marketing order from the FDA. On Sept. 9, 2020, the pre-2016 products that have not been submitted for marketing approval will also be illegal to sell. Although no state has banned sales of vaping products outright, many have bans on flavored products or online sales. Some cities, notably San Francisco, have banned all e-cigarette sales.

Uruguay
Legal to use, illegal to sell

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

Africa

Ethiopia
Believed legal to use, illegal to sell—but status is uncertain

Gambia
Believed illegal to use, illegal to sell

Mauritius
Legal to use, believed illegal to sell

Seychelles
Legal to use, illegal to sell—however, the country announced in 2019 its intention to legalize and regulate e-cigarettes

Uganda
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Asia

Bangladesh
Bangladesh currently has no laws or regulations specific to vaping. However, in December 2019 a health ministry official told Reuters that the government is “actively working to impose a ban on the production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and all vaping tobaccos to prevent health risks.”

Bhutan
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Brunei
Legal to use, illegal to sell most products

Cambodia
Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell

East Timor
Believed to be banned

India
In September 2019, the Indian central government banned sales of vaping products outright. 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 30 percent of the country’s largest tobacco company

Japan
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

North Korea
Banned

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 have occasionally raided retailers and confiscated products. Sales of all vaping products (even without nicotine) are banned outright in the states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Penang and Terengganu

Myanmar
Believed to be banned, based on an August 2020 article

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

Singapore
Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell. As of last year, possession is also a crime, punishable by fines of up to $1,500 (US) and even prison time. However, as is the case everywhere, the threat of prosecution doesn’t prevent a thriving black market

Sri Lanka
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Thailand
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 vaping tourists for “importation.” The government is reportedly reconsidering its harsh e-cigarette rules

Turkmenistan
Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Turkey
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 WHO issued a press release cheering the decision. But the laws are conflicting, and there is a vaping market and a vaping community in Turkey

Australia

Legal to use, illegal to sell nicotine. In Australia, possessing or selling nicotine is illegal without a doctor’s prescription, but except in one state (Western Australia) vaping devices are legal to sell. For that reason there is a thriving vaping market despite the law. Penalties for possession vary from one state to the next, but can be quite severe

Europe

Vatican City
Believed to be banned

The Middle East

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

Iran
Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Kuwait
Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Lebanon
Legal to use, illegal to sell

Oman
Believed legal to use, illegal to sell

Qatar
Banned: illegal to use, illegal to sell