Nations in Which E Liquid is Harder to Buy Than Cigarettes

By Jason Artman •  Updated: 09/10/19 •  6 min read

Vaping has brought enormous benefits to the lives of millions of former smokers around the world – but despite that fact, buying nicotine e-liquid is surprisingly difficult to do in some regions.

The legal challenges are even more surprising in light of the fact that cigarettes are so easy to acquire in comparison. If you didn’t know better, you might start to get the impression that your government actually wants you to smoke!

Whenever you start to feel as though buying e-liquid is more difficult for you than it should be, take heart and remember that other vapers around the world are in the same boat as you.

Is e-liquid way too difficult to buy?

You bet it is.

These are some of the legal hoops that people around the world must jump through to get their nicotine – if they can get it at all.

United States

Leaving aside the impending doom of FDA regulation, the United States actually has one of the world’s more permissive attitudes toward vaping.

For now, at least, you can buy e-liquid in any flavor, any bottle size and any nicotine concentration you want – except when you can’t.

In 2019, Michigan became the first state to ban all sales of flavored e-liquids. Also this year, the city of San Francisco banned vaping entirely.

Full federal regulation, meanwhile, still looms.

While companies in the vaping industry formerly had until 2022 to submit pre-market tobacco product applications and gain approval for their products, a federal lawsuit resulted in the FDA changing that deadline to May 2020.

Unless something changes, most vaping products will be illegal in the United States in just a few months.

Enjoy the good times while they last! When the Prohibition Era begins, millions of vapers in the U.S. will be making their own bathtub e-liquid, buying black market vape juice, using one of the Big Tobacco e-cigarettes that get through the approval process or returning to smoking.


Do you want to buy nicotine vape juice in Australia? Well, you can’t. The Australian government classifies liquid nicotine as a deadly poison requiring a doctor’s prescription for use.

You can’t buy it legally anywhere within Australia except from a compounding pharmacy.

You can, however, import nicotine e-liquid into Australia from other countries because the law allows you to import limited supplies of certain otherwise prohibited products for personal therapeutic use.

You still require a doctor’s prescription for full legal compliance, but otherwise, importing e-liquid isn’t that difficult.

You simply need to buy from a company that’s either based in – or works with an e-liquid supplier based in – another nation.


In the United Kingdom and Europe, a law called the Tobacco Products Directive sets certain limitations on the types of vaping products that are legal to manufacture and sell.

No individual e-liquid product, for example, can have a nicotine strength greater than 20 mg/ml.

No e-liquid bottle containing nicotine can be larger than 10 ml. No vape tank or pod can have a capacity greater than 2 ml.

If you live in the United States, you’re probably looking at those maximum sizes for bottles and tanks with shock; a 10 ml bottle of e-liquid isn’t even a one-day supply for those who use serious sub-ohm tanks or RDAs.

Vapers in Europe have found a workaround for the bottle size limit, though. It’s the shortfill bottle. A shortfill bottle is a large, partially empty bottle of nicotine-free e-liquid.

People buy shortfill bottles and 10 ml nicotine shots separately and combine the two.

As for the tank size limit, there’s a workaround for that as well: Buy a replacement glass enclosure.

For the nicotine strength limit, there is no simple workaround. However, Europe’s millions of vapers have proven that you don’t need a pod system with 50 mg of nicotine to switch successfully to vaping.


Thailand has some of the strictest vaping laws in the world, with a complete ban on public vaping and threats of fines and potential jail time for violators.

If you read the travel forums, you’ll find allegations that Thai police have even imposed on-the-spot fines of around $500 for tourists caught vaping in public.

People faced with such a threat can either choose to pay immediately or receive citations, appear in court and potentially face even stiffer penalties.

People who import vaping gear into Thailand with the intention of selling it can face up to 10 years of jail time.

The Thailand vaping ban underscores the importance of reading the local laws before you travel. If you fail to do so, a local police officer might enlighten you in a very unpleasant way.


All vaping products with nicotine are illegal in Japan and have been since 2010.

That’s precisely why Philip Morris used Japan as the first test market for its heat-not-burn iQOS system in 2014.

Plenty of Japanese smokers were excited about the fact that legitimate alternatives to smoking existed, and since vaping wasn’t an option, many of those people chose the iQOS system instead. The iQOS system now holds an estimated 17.4 percent share of the Japanese tobacco market.

In nations in which vaping is legal, iQOS hasn’t managed to gain the same level of market penetration that it has in Japan. It’s unlikely that many of the people who have already switched to e-liquid vaping would be interested in switching from e-liquid to a tobacco product.

It’ll be interesting to see, however, what ultimately happens to iQOS in the United States. No vaping company has yet submitted a premarket application to the FDA, let alone had an application approved.

In May 2020, every vaping product that hasn’t gone through the pre-market application process will become illegal in the U.S.

Philip Morris, meanwhile, has successfully put iQOS through the application process and has received approval from the FDA to sell iQOS in the United States. The product will likely have wide-scale availability around the time that the Prohibition Era begins.

It would probably be a good idea to stock up on e-liquid while you can!

Jason Artman

Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue.
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