As School Year Approaches, Wyden Raises Alarm on Dramatic Explosion of Foreign Vaping Imports

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today highlighted a newly released government report showing a massive increase in e-cigarette imports over the last several years. The new figures, released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), come as students begin to return to school for the year and teen use of vaping products continues to dramatically increase.

“There are a lot of things we don’t know about e-cigarettes, but we do know that these products are flooding into the country from China and getting into the hands of young people,” Wyden said. “Virtually overnight a new generation of nicotine users has been created by products that are untaxed and subject to minimal safety standards or oversight. Increasing the price of cigarettes made it far less likely that teenagers would take up smoking – I’ll be introducing legislation to tax e-cigarettes in the same way.”

The report shows that the value of e-cigarette imports has more than doubled year over year from 2016 through 2018—up approximately 100 percent each year—and was worth $1.3 billion last year. In 2016, 91 percent of e-cigarette imports came from China, and in 2018, China’s percentage increased to 98.7 percent. A recent government survey showed that 10 percent of eighth graders have used an e-cigarette within the past year, rising to nearly 40 percent among high school seniors.

E-cigarettes remain exempt from federal tobacco taxes, despite being regulated as a tobacco product by the Food and Drug Administration. The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that for every 1 percent increase in the price of cigarettes the number of smokers declines by 0.3 percent, and that teenagers respond most strongly to higher cigarette prices.

Wyden pushed the federal government to begin collecting data on e-cigarette imports in 2015, and it began to do so later that year.

A web version of this release is available here.