• April 24, 2024

Vapes Evading U.S. Import Duties

 Vapes Evading U.S. Import Duties
Image: Gudellaphoto

E-cigarette companies have imported hundreds of millions of dollars of disposable products from China into the United States without paying taxes and import duties, according to an AP report.

Last week, U.S. authorities confiscated 1.4 million units of unauthorized single-use e-cigarette products at Los Angeles international airport, with an estimated retail value of more than $18 million. The products were mislabeled as toys, shoes and other items.

Records show that the makers of disposable vapes routinely mislabel their shipments as battery chargers, flashlights and other items. Critics blame ineffective regulation. “The steps toward regulating disposables have been very weak, and that has enabled this problem to get bigger and bigger,” said Eric Lindblom, a former Food and Drug Administration official.

Heaven’s Gifts, the parent company of Shenzhen iMiracle, which manufactures the popular Elf Bar and EB brands, previously described how it could help customers evade import fees and taxes, according to the AP report.

The firm’s website reportedly advertised “discreet” shipping methods, such as mislabeling the content of e-cigarette shipments and declaring a low product value. 

Another strategy appears to be shipping e-cigarettes by air rather than sea. Air carriers are not required to disclose the same level of detail about their cargo as ocean vessels.

U.S. tobacco companies have complained that their vaping products cannot compete with such lower priced disposables. Altria Group and Reynolds recently filed cases in California and with the International Trade Commission, respectively, against importers of disposable vapes.

Flavored disposables began pouring into the U.S. shortly before China banned vaping flavors last year. China’s vaping manufacturing sector, which produces the lion’s share of e-cigarettes worldwide, is worth an estimated $28 billion, and the U.S. accounts for nearly 60 percent of the country’s vape exports, according to the China Electronics Chamber of Commerce.

Authorities have encouraged those exports while at the same time curtailing the country’s domestic vaping business.