Will China stop supplying illegal vapes to Australia?

Posted on May 8, 2024 By Colin

EMERITUS PROFESSOR SIMON CHAPMAN AND COLLEAGUES are predicting that illegal vapes will virtually disappear in Australia because the Chinese government requires “all exporters to obey the laws of the countries to which they are exporting”. [link Sub 208, Sub 62] A Chinese government report showed that the number of vapes leaving China for Australia fell by 93% in the first 2 months of 2024 after the disposable ban was introduced. [link]

According to Chapman, this is the ‘smoking gun’, and its “All over, red rover”. [link]

Seriously? There is so much wrong with this prediction.

Deliveries from China will continue

Deakin University criminologist Dr James Martin, who specialises in illicit markets says,

”I think it’s beyond doubt that Chinese suppliers will continue to supply the black market here much as they have always done, regardless of the domestic bans”

”Chinese government agencies have a long history of producing statistics that fit with desired government narratives rather than reflecting any empirical reality. [link] The notion that official Chinese government statistics are accurately reporting a decrease in vape exports into Australia is completely fanciful.”

“They certainly haven’t shown any interest in stemming the flow of vapes into the United States despite their restrictions. [link]. This is consistent with Chinese state behaviour in a range of other areas, such as intellectual property protections, where the Chinese formal position is that they respect international law, but they then simultaneously go and violate those laws on an industrial scale.”

Market forces will prevail

Powerful market forces will ensure that the supply of illicit vapes to Australia will continue, just as it does for other illicit drugs, in spite of vigorous and expensive enforcement efforts.

"Illicit drug use is overwhelmingly a demand problem. If demand persists, it’s going to find ways to get what it wants”
Donald Rumsfeld [link]

In the absence of a Chinese government crackdown, Dr Martin thinks vape distributors will continue to ship vapes directly from China. However, if that becomes an issue, deliveries can be reshipped via other countries such as New Zealand.

Reshipping of illicit drugs is standard practice according to Dr Martin. For example, Australia's annual Illicit Drug Data Report shows that the single largest source for cocaine entering Australia is the UK, not Columbia or Peru where the drugs originate [link].

Large volumes of Chinese vapes can be easily ordered online through wholesalers, for example here.

Some suppliers even offer free shipping if vapes are intercepted at the border, eg here.

Interceptions are uncommon

Only a small fraction of illegal vapes are intercepted at the Australian border. Finding vapes amongst the millions of shipping containers and parcels arriving each year from China is like finding a needle in a very large haystack.

Mango vapes are a low priority for the Australian Border Force. They are more concerned about dangerous contraband such as fentanyl or firearms. They simply do not have the time or resources to detect more than the occasional illegal vape shipment.

Dr Martin says that the criminals only have to get 2 out of 10 shipping containers through customs to make a profit. With odds like that, it is likely supply will continue for a long time.

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