Electronic Cigarettes:

Imports, Tariffs, and Data Collection

GAO-15-491R: Published: May 7, 2015. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 2015.

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What GAO Found

Import volume and tariff revenue for electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, are unknown, because the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS)—which is used to classify U.S. imports and exports for tariff and other purposes—does not contain statistical reporting numbers specific to e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes, e-cigarette parts, and e-cigarette liquid are imported under HTS statistical reporting numbers for residual or basket categories that cover a range of goods, such as special effects strobe lights, seaweed extracts, and hand sanitizer. As a result, although U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collects data on import volume and tariff revenue for the basket categories that include e-cigarettes, parts, and liquid, CBP officials said they are unable to identify the volume of and tariff revenue from e-cigarette imports within these categories.

The interagency Committee for Statistical Annotation of Tariff Schedules, if requested, can create statistical reporting numbers to classify specific goods to improve an industry’s or the federal government’s ability to track import and export volume and tariff revenue for imported goods, but there are currently no statistical reporting numbers specific to e-cigarette imports. The committee consists of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), and CBP. According to USITC officials, no entity had requested statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarettes, parts, or liquid as of April 1, 2015.

Why GAO Did This Study

E-cigarettes are becoming more popular and widely used. At present, the federal government does not systematically collect data on e-cigarette sales, numbers of manufacturers and importers, or types of products sold. Although information about the e-cigarette market is incomplete, most e-cigarettes sold in the United States are thought to be imported. CBP enforces U.S. customs laws and collects tariffs for goods imported into the United States.

In conducting its work, GAO analyzed CBP’s classification rulings related to e-cigarette imports and tariff revenue data for fiscal year 2014. GAO assessed the reliability of the data by performing data checks for inconsistency errors and by interviewing cognizant officials. GAO determined that CBP’s tariff revenue data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report. In addition, GAO interviewed officials from CBP, USITC, and Census as well as industry experts, such as financial analysts and researchers.tional Trade Commission (USITC), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), and CBP. According to USITC officials, no entity had requested statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarettes, parts, or liquid as of April 1, 2015.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or gootnickd@gao.gov.

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