Purchase of tobacco and alcohol in Europe: limited quantities

If you wish to purchase and transport products from one country of the European Union to another, you are not limited in quantity if these products are for your personal use. However, there are limits for cross-border purchases of tobacco and alcohol.

 

No limit for purchases in the EU

If it is for your personal use (and not to resell), there is no limit to the number of products you can buy while you travel between countries of the European Union. Taxes (VAT and excise taxes) are generally included in the price. You pay all taxes for your product in the country of the purchase.

Attention to special rules regarding tobacco and alcohol

If you want to buy alcoholic beverages and tobacco products in a country of the EU, you will be limited in the authorised quantities you can bring back to France.

How much tobacco can I bring back to France?

For the purchase of tobacco in Europe and its return to France, the quantitative thresholds set by the General Tax Code limit you. These thresholds are used to determine whether the products purchased are for your personal use or for commercial use.

You cannot bring back to France more than:

  • 200 cigarettes (= 1 carton)
  • 100 cigarillos (cigars of a max weight of 3 grams each)
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g of smoking tobacco

In July 2020, France decided to limit the importation of tobacco to these lower thresholds of Article 32 of the European Directive to fight against the consumption of tobacco in France and to support French tobacco sellers.

In the event of customs inspection, if you are transporting more than the authorized quantities, you will have to explain your intended use of these products. If they are not for your personal consumption, they will be seized and you may pay a fine (up to 750€).

The purchase of tobacco on the internet is prohibited in France, on both French and foreign sites (in Belgium, for example), even during the coronavirus crisis.

In France, you can only buy tobacco from authorized tobacco sellers and resellers. More information on the customs website.

 

How much alcohol can I take back to France?

Like tobacco, the importation of alcohol into France is limited.

Unless you can prove that the purchases are for a particular event like a wedding, you cannot bring into France more than:

  • 10 litres of spirit beverages (whiskey, gin, vodka, etc.)
  • 20 litres of intermediate products (vermouth, port, Madeira, etc.)
  • 90 litres of wine (of which 60 litres maximum of sparkling)
  • 110 litres of beer

Beyond these limits, you must pay taxes.

For more information, you can contact Customs Info Service at 0 811 20 44 44 (outside of the French metropole/or from abroad 33 1 72 40 78 50 preceded by the international code) or consult the customs website.

 

Buying an electronic cigarette in Europe: is it possible?

You can buy an electronic cigarette in the European Union and then bring it back to France, provided that you bought it for personal consumption. In this case you will not have to fill out a declaration or pay duties and taxes.

Be aware that in Europe: 

  • The sale of electronic cigarettes is prohibited to minors;
  • Communication / advertising on products related to vaping is prohibited: opaque shop windows, advertising on radio / television / in the streets prohibited in France;
  • the liquid bottles are limited to 10 ml and the tanks to 2 ml;
  • the nicotine content is limited to 20 mg/ml for self-service sales.

Can you buy an e-cigarette on a foreign site?

You can purchase an e-cigarette on a site based in another EU country if this country considers it a current product of consumption AND if it allows the cross-border sale of it. Each country is free to authorize or prohibit this.

Examples:

Belgium prohibits the on line sale of e-cigarettes.

France considers the e-cigarette to be a current product of consumption, not subject to the regulation of tobacco shops and authorises the online, cross-border sale of it.

Practical advice

  • Before you purchase, check if the seller is established in the EU and the characteristics of vape products set in place.
  • Keep in mind that certain goods are subject to standards (sanitary, industrial, technical…) in force within the EU. Customs services may block or even destroy goods not respecting the regulations (national/international).