Authors: Alessandra Lugo, et al.
In Europe, limited adequate data on tobacco, allowing for between-country comparisons, are available. Moreover, scanty information, other than those provided by the tobacco industry, is available on the quantitative extent of illicit cigarette trade. The Pricing Policies And Control of Tobacco in Europe (PPACTE) project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the efficacy of fiscal policies to control tobacco. The objective of the present research is to provide updated data on smoking prevalence and to estimate the size of illicit trade in Europe, validating self-reported data with objective information. Within the PPACTE project, a face-to-face survey on smoking has been conducted in 18 European countries (Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, England, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden) in 2010 on a total sample of 18,056 individuals. The survey was representative, in each country, of the population aged 15 years or over in terms of sex, age, geographic area and socio-economic characteristics. Information on smoking habits and on the latest purchased cigarette pack was collected. A measure called Identification of an Illicit Pack was built in order to validate self-reported information on illicit cigarettes with objective data. In Europe, the prevalence of current smokers was 27.2% (30.6% of men and 24.1% of women), ranging between 16.3% in Sweden and 40.9% in Bulgaria. The proportion of illicit packs was 6.5% overall, with peaks in Latvia (37.8%) and Sweden (18.8%). Illicit cigarettes were more frequent among less educated smokers and in countries bordering with Ukraine, Russia, Moldova and Belarus, which are major suppliers of illicit cigarettes. Our study indicates that there are large differences across European countries in terms of smoking prevalence and extent of illicit trade. The supply of illicit tobacco, rather than its price, is a key factor contributing to tax evasion.