Egypt has very high smoking rates and many smokers have been switching to e-cigarettes, which remain unregulated. This has resulted in a lot of smuggling and illegal vape shops.
Public health experts have long been pointing out that consumers’ response to raising prices on vaping products or making them unavailable, is more often than not, turning to contraband products. In line with this, data from around the world have been indicating that all the vape bans recently set in place due to Covid-19, have been feeding this illicit trade.
In Egypt, the sales, distribution, and importation of e-cigarettes have been forbidden since 2015, when the Ministry of Health issued a ban in accordance with an earlier decision by the Specialized Technical Committee of Drugs in 2011.
An article on Albawaba has recently pointed out that the products have never been regulated and the black market trade in e-cigarettes and associated products, is being driven by smuggling. “Regulating the vape category will protect consumers, secure much-needed tax revenues, and bolster Egypt’s free-market model.”
A blackmarket driven by smuggling
Egypt has very high smoking rates and adult smokers have been gradually switching from smoking to vaping, as a way to quit or reduce harm. The country is also known for having a major problem with counterfeit products in general, and the e-cigarette market is no different.
The local restrictions concerning e-cigarettes, have resulted in a myriad of illegal vape shops across the country that sell the product and its accessories, often smuggled into the country. Last year, the Industry Committee of the House of Representatives in Egypt adopted a new legislation against fake branding and products, whether local or global, imposing severe punishments on producers.
With regards to vaping products, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has approved a draft presidential decree on “The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products” aiming to set in place effective measures to control the supply chain. However, regulating the products and having them legally available on the market would go a long way in solving the problem.
Saudi’s import ban
To tackle a similar issue locally, Egypt’s neighbour, Saudi Arabia, has just banned the importation of shisha and vaping products through shipping companies and individuals’ websites. This means that from now on, only licensed companies are allowed to import the products for commercial purposes.
As a result of this measure, if any products are imported unlawfully, they would be confiscated, a fine imposed, and a record of seizure will be registered. On the other hand, said Saudi Customs, there are three circumstances under which importers can claim a refund of customs duties. These are as follows: “Re-exporting foreign goods abroad, goods that had a material error, technical errors or errors in evaluation; and goods for which an industrial exemption decision was issued”, via the portal “Faseh.”
Meanwhile, companies licensed by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) are allowed to import the products in commercial quantities. Customs have listed the following five reasons for exempting goods returned for export abroad, from reimbursement of their duties.
“Re-exporting them within a calendar year from the date of payment of customs duties, the claim for refund of customs duties is made within six months from the date of re-export, the goods should be from one consignment, it should not be used locally, the value of the taxes levied is not less than SR18,750 ($5,000), and the exporter is also the importer or any other person when it is proven to the Saudi Customs that he has purchased them.”