Handcrafted Smoking Pipes, Hookahs, Bongs and such related goods are a product of the handicrafts industry clustered in Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas. It caters to niche markets in Americas, Middle East, Europe etc.
However, due to its potential use as an accessory or an equipment for consumption of drugs, United States Customs scrutinizes, reviews and examines shipments of these products in a very comprehensive way.
Due to my affiliation with the handicraft industry, I took up the initiative of browsing the relevant laws, which I am reproducing below, with comments.
The HS classification is as follows.
96140000 (SMOKING PIPES, INCLUDING PIPE BOWLS, CIGAR OR CIGARETTE HOLDERS AND PARTS THEREOF),
44201000 (Wooden Handicrafts)
68029900 (Hand! icrafts of Stone)
The relevant statute, 21 U.S.C. Section 863 provides,
(a) In general It is unlawful for any person—
(1) to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia;
(2) to use the mails or any other facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia; or
(3) to import or export drug paraphernalia.
Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Section 863(d), the term “drug paraphernalia” is defined as:
Any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, p! reparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introdu! cing into the human body a controlled substance, possession of which is unlawful under this subchapter. It includes items primarily intended or designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing marijuana, cocaine, hashish, hashish oil, PCP, methamphetamine, or amphetamines into the human body, such as—
(1) metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipes with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads, or punctured metal bowls;
(2) water pipes;
(3) carburetion tubes and devices;
(4) smoking and carburetion masks;
(5) roach clips: meaning objects used to hold burning material, such as a marihuana cigarette, that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand;
(6) miniature spoons with level capacities of one-tenth cubic centimeter or less;
(7) chamber pipes;
(8) carburetor pipes;
(9) electric pipes;
(10) air-driven pipes;
(13) ice pipes or chillers;
(14) wired cigarette papers; or
(15) cocaine freebase kits. (Emphasis added).
Further, to determine whether an item is considered drug paraphernalia, 21 U.S.C. Section 863(e) provides that:
[I]n addition to all other logically relevant factors, the following may be considered:
(1) instructions, oral or written, provided with the item concerning its use;
(2) descriptive materials accompanying the item which explain or depict its use;
(3) national and local advertising concerning its use;
(4) the manner in which the item is displayed for sale;
(5) whether the owner, or anyone in control of the item, is a legitimate supplier of like or related ! items to the community, such as a licensed distributor or deal! er of tob! acco products;
(6) direct or circumstantial evidence of the ratio of sales of the item(s) to the total sales of the business enterprise;
(7) the existence and scope of legitimate uses of the item in the community; and
(8) expert testimony concerning its use.
Lastly, 21 U.S.C. Section 863(f) lists exemptions:
(1) any person authorized by local, State, or Federal law to manufacture, possess, or distribute such items; or
(2) any item that, in the normal lawful course of business, is imported, exported, transported, or sold through the mail or by any other means, and traditionally intended for use with tobacco products, including any pipe, paper, or accessory. (Emphasis added).
The U.S. Supreme Court examined the meaning of “drug paraphernalia” pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Section 863 in the matter of Posters ‘N’ Things v. United States, 511 U.S. 513 (1994), and considered the phrases (1) “primarily intended for use” and (2) “designed for use” in such case.
The Court concluded that “primarily intended for use” is to be understood objectively and refers generally to an item’s likely use. Posters ‘N’ Things, 511 U.S. 513, 521 (1994). Moreover, the Court noted that this “is a relatively particularized definition, reaching beyond the category of items that are likely to be used with drugs by virtue of their objective features.” Id. at 521 n.11.
The court stated that “items ‘primarily inten! ded’ for use with drugs constitute drug par! aphernali! a, indicating that it is the likely use of customers generally, not any particular customer, that can render a multiple-use item drug paraphernalia.” Id. at 521 n.11. Therefore, items having possible multiple uses may constitute drug paraphernalia for purposes of 21 U.S.C. Section 863 if the likely use by customers of the seller of the items is for use with illegal drugs.
Customs will make the determination on a case-by-case basis about whether your product falls within the context of drug paraphernalia. Accordingly, one should take into account the relevant factors that CBP considers when publishing its rulings on such products. Further, one should speak with an attorney who focuses on Customs law to ensure that the best arguments are presented to CBP for clearance of their smoke shop products into the U! nited States.
In accordance with 26 U.S.C. § 5702(c), "tobacco products" means cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco), pipe tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco. For pipe/loose tobacco products, contact the Ports of Entry.
The provisions of this subpart requiring that tobacco products and cigarette papers and tubes be put up in packages and that proper notice be placed on such packages shall not apply to imported tobacco products and cigarette papers and tubes authorized to be released from customs custody, without payment of internal revenue tax, pursuant to §41.50, and shall not apply to tobacco products imported in passengers’ baggage, or by mail where the value does not exceed $250, where such products are solely for the personal consumption of the importer or for disposition as his bona fide gift.
(72 Stat. 1422; 26 U.S.C. 5723)
[T.D. 6871, 31 FR 41, Jan. 4, 1966. Redesignated at 40 FR 16835, Apr. 15, 1975, as amended by T.D. ATF-232, 51 FR 28085, Aug. 5, 1986; T.D. ATF-243, 51 FR 43194, Dec. 1, 1986. Redesignated and amended by T.D. TTB-16, 69 FR 52424, 52425, Aug. 26, 2004]