In 2014, a decision by the Tunisian government created a roadblock for independent electronic cigarette shops. Since that decision, the RNTA (Tunisia’s cigarette and match board) became the only institution legally allowed to market vaping products in the country.
This catastrophic measure has put many small investors, such as Karim, in dire financial straights. Due to the RNTA monopoly, the young entrepreneur had to battle with the staggeringly inefficient bureaucracy of the Tunisian state. He dedicated a great deal of time, money, and energy to gather all the documentation necessary to set up his vape shop. After extensive bureaucratic maze-running, Karin obtained the administrative documents necessary to launch his business legally.
But then a new obstacle appeared in his path. In order to import vaping devices from France, the young businessman had to obtain a customs waiver, and this could only be delivered by the RNTA. Karim issued the request on the 31st of May, 2018. Weeks then months went by and Karim never got a response, despite his many repeated attempts to initiate contact.
The RNTA is allowing a thriving black market to establish itself
Karim decided to follow the law to the letter to ensure his business was legal. However many other small business owners saw no other solution but to source and sell contraband products.
It is important to note that, while sometimes cheaper, black market vaping goods are untested, adhere to no standards, and can be the source of a range of public health issues. With no official compliance procedure on products sold, unscrupulous salespersons can empty their shelves of these sometimes defective black market goods. Illegal sales in this sector have impacted the economic development of Tunisia as a whole. Vaping product taxes no longer flow into the State’s coffers, and administrative complications mean that new businesses are afraid to hire, or simply financially unable to do so.
Ironically, the only legal source of vaping devices, the RNTA, is struggling to make any sales. Their e-cigs models are old, badly-reviewed, and unfashionable among vapers in Tunisia.