Study to Identify an Approach to Measure the Illicit Market for Tobacco Products

Final Report

Published in: Publications Office of the European Union website (2021). doi: 10.2784/272064

Posted on RAND.org on May 11, 2021

by Jirka Taylor, Shann Hulme, Fook Nederveen, Stijn Hoorens, Hana Ross, Emma Disley

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The illicit tobacco trade is a global phenomenon with significant negative health, social and economic consequences. This study is intended to support efforts to better understand the scope and scale of the illicit tobacco market. The primary objective was to develop a reliable, robust, replicable and independent methodology to measure the illicit market that can be applied by the EU and its Member States. The key requirements were that the methodology would capture the total volume of the illicit trade and distinguish between the legal and illegal market, ideally distinguishing between types of tobacco products, and types of illicit trade. Based on in-depth literature reviews and interviews with key informants, we constructed a longlist of 11 methodologies that have been or could be used to measure the illicit tobacco market and assessed them against a standardised set of criteria. This resulted in a shortlist of five preferred methods (i.e. discarded pack survey, comparison of sales/tax paid and self-reported consumption, consumer survey with and without pack inspection/surrender, econometric modelling). As individual approaches, these shortlisted methods were not sufficient to meet the minimum criteria. Accordingly, these shortlisted methods were then used to formulate options for combination of methodologies corresponding to various levels of resource intensity.

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