October 20,2015

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Wyden Hails Action by Trade Agencies to Track E-Cigarette Imports

Following Wyden’s Call for More Consumer Safety Information, Americans Will Have More Data about E-Cigs Coming into U.S., Mostly from China

E-Cigs Are Currently Exempt from Federal Tax and Age Restrictions; No Oversight of Health Effects, Ingredients, or Advertising 

WASHINGTON –Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today praised a decision by U.S trade agencies to track the content and volume of e-cigarette products being imported into the United States. Prior to the decision, such products were not tracked under any national regulatory or revenue system. Wyden called for the agencies to improve import tracking earlier this year in a letter to the chairman of the U.S. International Trade Committee (USITC). 

“For the first time the American people can shine a light on the e-cigarette market, which up to now has been completely untracked and unregulated by the federal government,” Wyden said.  “The public needs to have robust access to information about products they consume, especially when they come from abroad. I’m pleased USITC has acted in a timely manner and I look forward to continuing my work to ensure these products are safe and appropriately regulated.” 

According to a report prepared by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the U.S. market for electronic cigarettes (or “e-cigarettes”) was roughly $2.5 billion in 2014. Industry experts believe that most of these products come from abroad, with upwards of 90% of imports coming from China. 

However, the actual volumes and sources of these imports are unknown because current tariff schedules do not contain reporting codes specific to these products. Instead, they are imported under broad basket categories where e-cigarettes are included with electrical equipment such as strobe lights and hand-held calorie counters. Imports of the liquids used to refill e-cigarettes also have not been tracked prior to today’s action. In addition to the USITC, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Census Bureau comprise the interagency committee which approved the tracking codes.

Because e-cigarettes are not a traditional tobacco product, they can be imported and sold without restriction by age or any other criteria.  CDC recently reported that use among middle and high school students tripled in just the past year from 4.5 % of students in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014.  They are also not currently subject to federal tobacco taxes or regulations.