Controlling Illicit Tobacco Trade: International Experience

This report presents a series of case studies on the efforts of various governments to address illicit trade in tobacco. The countries for the case studies were selected based on meeting the following set of criteria:

  • an explicit, and in many cases a comprehensive, effort to deal with tobacco tax evasion and tax avoidance;
  • the size of the tobacco market (both licit and illicit);
  • the availability of data

The case studies illustrate a variety of approaches implemented over time, demonstrate their varying degree of effectiveness, and consider factors modifying the success rate. Each case study begins with an initial assessment of the degree of the problem and then follows the chronological path each government took to deal with the problem. To the extent that the data is available, the case studies demonstrate the impact of each distinct set of policies on a set of outcomes, including the degree of penetration of illicit products and tobacco use prevalence.

In many cases, these illicit tobacco trade measures were not adopted in isolation, but were part of a comprehensive set of strategies to reduce tobacco use. Thus, it is often not possible to separate the impact of policies addressing illicit tobacco trade from other public health measures such as increases in tobacco taxes and/or changes in tobacco tax structure.

The summary table at the end of the report provides a quick overview of measures to reduce illicit tobacco trade adopted by the countries included in the case studies.  Even though the list of measures included in the summary table is not comprehensive, it captures the most common interventions adopted or considered by many governments.

The last section summarizes the lessons learned and proposes the most effective approach to reducing illicit tobacco trade.

View the companion piece in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Approaches for Controlling Illicit Tobacco Trade — Nine Countries and the European Union.