Illegal disposable e-cigarettes a new market for criminals

German customs have seized nearly 50,000 illegal disposable e-cigarettes in Stuttgart. This is the largest seizure so far in Germany. Customs police now fear a new wave of organised crime focusing on disposable vapes.

(Updated March 2023)

48100 disposable cigars, without proper German labelling, were crossing the border between France and Germany. The driver of the van carrying the goods was under the influence of drugs and claimed he was transporting the goods "for a friend". He is now suspected of both unauthorised driving and planned tax evasion, the report says. the trade magazine eGarage.

New tax on nicotine liquids

This is not the first time customs police in Germany have seized so-called disposable weapons, or "disposables", on their way across the border. As recently as August this year, 28,000 units were caught in customs' nets near Göttingen. Both customs police and industry associations in Germany suspect that the recently introduced tax on nicotine liquid, together with the popularity of the new disposable models, is contributing to the increase in smuggling.

Attracting criminals

Police seized single-use e-cigs last spring, even before the tax, but in much smaller quantities.
"Now e-cigarettes are becoming an easy start-up in criminal circles," says Mr Perez. Frank Buckenhofer, President of the German Customs Police Union told eGarage.

Taxes lead to dangerous price differences

The smoking rate in Germany is high, close to 28%. 2% of the population are vapers and e-cigarettes are regulated under the TPD, the European Tobacco Directive. The TPD is intended to harmonise the market for e-cigarettes across the EU, but it does not currently include a framework for taxation. This means that the price of e-liquid differs enormously between countries. This is of concern to the president of the German customs union.

"The greater the price difference between legal and illegal goods, the greater the returns for criminals. This makes it all the more attractive for organised crime to set up appropriate structures. It is ten times easier, more rewarding and safer to engage in smuggling than to rob a bank. Those already on the black market are now expanding their range in terms of models and quantity. And that leads to big problems." says Frank Buckenhofer to eGarage.

Similar developments in Sweden

The tax on e-liquid in Germany is since 1 July 2022 at €0.16 per millilitre. This corresponds to SEK 1.7 per ml. In Sweden, there are two taxes on e-liquid with nicotine: SEK 2 per ml if the concentration is below 15 mg/ml. More concentrated e-juices of up to 20 mg/ml are taxed twice as much - SEK 4 per ml. In Sweden, there are also signs that sales of illegal single-use models often takes place on a black market, partly through physical stores but also through social media, where young people are the main target group.

Sources for this article:
Huge smuggling of disposables uncovered

HZA-S: 48,100 pieces of e-cigarettes seized

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