Collecting Revenue on U.S. E-Cigarette Imports

Posted on December 14, 2017

Over the last decade, the use of traditional cigarettes in the United States has declined, while the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has grown rapidly. We’ve previously reported that the federal government could not specifically track e-cigarette imports. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began doing so on January 1, 2016, and we analyzed the first full year of data.

Today’s WatchBlog explores what we found.

E-cigarette parts

An e-cigarette device typically contains a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge or tank that can be empty or filled with liquid.

Types of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette parts

Heating elements and cartridges can be imported separately, as can e-cigarette liquid—which can contain nicotine in different concentrations or have no nicotine at all.

Value of imports

The value of U.S. e-cigarette imports totaled about $342 million in 2016—and brought in about $9 million in tariff revenue. E-cigarette devices accounted for nearly 60% of the value of these imports ($204 million), parts for nearly 32% ($108 million), and liquid for about 9% ($30 million).

We also found that importers brought in much greater quantities of e-cigarette liquid (about 480,000 kilograms) with higher nicotine content than liquid with lower nicotine content (about 111,000 kilograms).

Country of origin

Finally, although e-cigarettes were imported from 41 countries into the United States in 2016, imports from China accounted for about 91 percent of these imports by value.

To find out more, check out our report on U.S. e-cigarette imports in 2016.

Table 2: Customs Value of U.S. E-cigarette Imports by Country of Origin in 2016


GAO Contacts
David Gootnick
David Gootnick