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Customs authorities in China’s Zhejiang Province have arrested 27 suspects allegedly involved in smuggling heat-not-burn devices and consumable sticks with a value of more than 400 million yuan (US$58.4 million), according to a Xinhua news agency story.
Customs representatives speaking in the city of Ningbo on Monday said that more than 470,000 cartons of sticks had been confiscated in the latest operation.
Earlier, 30,000 cartons of sticks and 500 tobacco-heating devices had been seized while taking down three cross-border smuggling gangs.
A suspect surnamed Li was said to have confessed that his accomplice had bought sticks and devices in Japan to smuggle them into China.
Li alone was said to have smuggled more than 100,000 cartons before his arrest.
Investigators were said also to have identified nearly 300 other smugglers.
The Xinhua story said that ‘electronic cigarettes’ could not be sold in China legally. However, it said, smugglers resorted to online platforms and instant messaging applications to sell them disguised as other products.
The story referred to the smuggled products throughout as ‘electronic cigarettes’, but it seems likely that they were in fact heated-tobacco products given that reference was made in the story specifically to ‘tobacco heating devices’ and ‘cartons of cigarettes’.
The story seems to be questionable also in claiming that electronic cigarettes cannot be sold in China, though, again, the question of legality could refer to heat-not-burn products. According to the recent report, No fire, no smoke: Global state of tobacco harm reduction, electronic cigarettes can be sold legally in China.