In ruling N327712 (Sept. 2, 2022), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discusses the country of origin of an electronic vaping device. The device under review, identified as the Vuse Alto Power Unit, is an electronic vaping device comprised of the following components:

  • Metal enclosure containing a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA);
  • Rechargeable battery;
  • Battery plugs;
  • Flexible printed circuit assembly (FPCA);
  • LED lights;
  • Neodymium magnets; and
  • Gasket.

The device allows a user to attach a cartridge with e-liquid to be vaporized at one end. The cartridge acts as a heating element as well as a mouthpiece through which a user can draw out the vapor. In this case, the cartridge was not imported with the device and, therefore, was not subject to the ruling.

To determine the country of origin of the device, CBP reviewed the device’s manufacturing process. The PCBA was manufactured in Vietnam using surface mount technology (SMT), a manufacturing method by which electrical components are mounted onto the surface of a printed circuit board, which creates a PCBA. Afterwards, the completed PCBA was sent to China, where it was combined with the remaining components of the finished device. All of the remaining components were Chinese origin.

Under the customs regulations, in relevant part, an article’s “country of origin” is “the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the ‘country of origin’ within the meaning of this part.” 19 C.F.R. 134.1(b). Citing numerous court cases, CBP articulated that a substantial transformation takes place when “an article emerges from a process with a new name, character or use different from that possessed by the article prior to processing.”

Upon reviewing the manufacturing process, CBP found that the Vietnam-origin PCBA—which is the primary controlling apparatus of the vaping device—served as the essential functional component of finished device. In addition, the secondary assembly process in China was not sufficiently complex to cause the individual components to lose their identities. Nor did this secondary assembly process transform the Vietnamese PCBA into a new and different article with a new name, character, or use. Therefore, CBP ruled that the country of origin of the electronic vaping device was Vietnam.