Governments around the world have different attitudes toward e-cigarettes and nicotine. In the United Kingdom, government health agencies largely encourage the use of e-cigarettes. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had authority over e-cigarette products since 2016, but has refused to create a simple system of standards for e-cigarettes and e-liquids.
In recent years, some U.S. states have implemented flavor and online sales bans. Canada followed the UK model for a short time, but recently implemented nicotine concentration limits and extreme flavor restrictions.
More than 40 countries and territories have some form of ban on e-cigarettes. We list here the flavor and online sales bans in each U.S. state, as well as the sales and use bans implemented in other countries.
U.S. Bans on Flavored E-Cigarettes and Online Sales
The FDA has federal authority to regulate e-cigarette products. in September 2020, the agency began reviewing premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) and has stated that it will not authorize flavored products without specific evidence. Whether the agency will succeed in establishing an unwritten standard to eliminate legal flavored products (other than tobacco and menthol) may be determined by the federal courts.
Most e-cigarette bans in the United States have occurred at the state and local levels. While some cities in California - notably San Francisco - have banned the sale of all e-cigarette products, most U.S. e-cigarette restrictions involve flavors and online sales. While a large number of e-cigarette bans have been introduced in state legislatures in recent years, only a handful of each - proving that grassroots opposition can stop bad legislation.
Arkansas - online sales ban, tobacco licenses issued to Arkansas businesses allow only face-to-face transactions and therefore prohibit online sales
California - Flavor ban (suspended until 2022), a law banning all "flavored tobacco" (including e-cigarettes) was passed by the California Legislature (and signed by the governor) in August 2020. However, after a massive signature gathering campaign, the law is being implemented until the state's voters decide whether to approve it in a referendum in November 2022. The law, if passed, would ban all flavors of e-cigarettes 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 by Massachusetts in late 2019. It includes all tobacco products and prohibits the sale of all e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco
New Jersey - Flavor Ban, New Jersey's ban covers all flavors except tobacco. After realizing how much tax revenue the state would lose, lawmakers decided not to ban menthol cigarettes. The governor signed the flavor ban and increased taxes on e-cigarette products, but vetoed an additional 20 mg/mL nicotine strength limit
New York - A flavor ban + online sales ban covering all flavors except tobacco was passed in April 2020. The state also passed an online sales ban (for all e-cigarette products) at the same time
Oregon - Online sales ban, which prohibits online sales in Oregon, 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 impose a permanent ban on all e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco
South Dakota - Online sales ban, South Dakota bans shipping of all tobacco products (including e-cigarettes)
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 banning edible flavors include Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles (effective 2023), San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, and San Jose, California; and Boulder, Colorado. Hundreds of smaller cities and counties (primarily in California) have flavor bans, with some large city bans later replaced by state bans (e.g., New York City and Newark, New Jersey)
San Francisco and some smaller cities in California have total bans on e-cigarette product sales and states that have banned the sale or use of e-cigarette products
In some countries, e-cigarettes are completely illegal, both to sell and to possess. Bans are most prevalent in Asia, the Middle East and South America. Australia has a strange prescription-only model for e-cigarette products, and unauthorized importation can result in hefty fines. Nicotine e-cigarette products are illegal in Japan, but heated tobacco products like IQOS are completely legal and widely used.
Some countries ban their use and sale altogether, others simply ban their sale, and still others only ban products containing nicotine. In many countries, laws are ignored and black markets flourish. In other cases, they are enforced (but those still have a black market). If a country is not listed, then e-cigarettes are either permitted or regulated, or there are no specific laws governing e-cigarettes (which is the case now anyway).
Antigua and Barbuda: legal use, illegal sale
Argentina: legal use, illegal sale
Australia: legal use, possession of nicotine without a doctor's prescription is illegal. Illegal importation of nicotine is punishable by a fine of up to $222,000. Penalties for possession vary by state, but can also be very severe
Bangladesh: Bangladesh does not currently have laws or regulations specifically targeting e-cigarettes. However, in 2021, the government announced that it will update the country's tobacco control laws to completely ban the sale of e-cigarettes.
Bhutan: Legal use, illegal sale
Brazil: Legal use, illegal sale
Brunei Darussalam: legal use, illegal sale
Cambodia: Ban: illegal use, illegal sale
Chile: Legal use, illegal sale (except for approved medical products)
Colombia: Legal use, illegal sale
Timor-Leste: Believed to be banned
Egypt: legal use, illegal sale - although the country may be on the verge of regulating e-cigarette products
Ethiopia: considered legal use, illegal sale
Gambia: considered illegal use, illegal sale
Hong Kong, China: legal use, illegal sale The ban on the sale, importation, manufacture and promotion of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products takes effect on April 30, 2022.
India: legal use, illegal sale. in September 2019, the central government of India bans the sale of e-cigarette products. Knowing full well that 100 million Indians smoke and that tobacco kills nearly 1 million people each year, the government has taken no steps to reduce access to cigarettes. Not coincidentally, the Indian government owns a large portion of the country's largest tobacco company
Iran: considered legal use, illegal sales
Jamaica: legal use, illegal sale of nicotine-containing products without medical clearance
Japan: legal to use, legal to sell devices and zero nicotine e-cigarette oil, but illegal to sell nicotine-containing liquids (although individuals can import nicotine-containing products with some restrictions) Heated tobacco products (HTP) like IQOS are legal and very popular
Kuwait: Considered legal for use, illegal for sale
Laos: Illegal use, illegal sale
Lebanon: legal use, illegal sale
Malaysia: legal use, illegal sale of nicotine-containing products Despite the fact that consumer sales of nicotine-containing products are illegal, Malaysia has a thriving e-cigarette market. Authorities occasionally raid retailers and confiscate products. Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Penang, and Terengganu completely ban the sale of all e-cigarette products (even if they do not contain nicotine)
Mauritius: legal to use, illegal to sell
Mexico: Legal use, illegal sale. The President of Mexico issued a decree in May 2022 banning the sale of all e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The law includes nicotine-free products
Burma: Considered banned
Nepal: legal to use, potentially illegal to sell (although the government itself seems unsure)
Nicaragua: use considered illegal, sale illegal
North Korea: banned
Oman: considered legal to use, illegal to sell
Panama: legal use, illegal sale
Qatar: banned: illegal use, illegal sale
Seychelles: legal use, illegal sales. However, the country announced in 2019 its intention to legalize and regulate e-cigarettes
Singapore: prohibited: illegal use, illegal sale. As of 2018, possession of e-cigarettes is a crime punishable by fines and even jail time. However, the threat of prosecution did not stop the burgeoning black market
Sri Lanka: legal use, illegal sale
Suriname: legal use, illegal sale
Syria: banned: illegal use, illegal sale
Thailand: Considered legal use, illegal sale. In recent years, Thailand has enjoyed a reputation for enforcing bans on the import and sale of e-cigarette products, with several high-profile incidents in recent years, including the detention and even deportation of e-cigarette tourists
Timor-Leste: legal use, illegal sale
Turkey: Legal to use, illegal to import. Importing e-cigarette 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 has conflicting laws, and Turkey has an e-cigarette market and an e-cigarette community
Turkmenistan: considered legal to use, illegal to sell
Uganda: legal use, illegal sale
United States: legal use, legal sale - but as of September 9, 2021, the sale of products without FDA authorization technically becomes illegal. While no state has completely banned the sale of e-cigarette products, many states have banned flavored products or online sales. Some cities in California, notably San Francisco, have banned the sale of all e-cigarettes
Uruguay: Legal to use, illegal to sell
Vatican City: considered banned
Venezuela: legal to use, considered illegal to sell unless approved as a medical product