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The price of cigarettes in the European Union
  1. Agustín Montesa,
  2. Joan R Villalbíb
  1. aFacultade de Medicina e Odontoloxía, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, bInstitut Municipal de Salut Pública, Ajuntament de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Joan R Villalbí, Institut Municipal de Salut Pública, Pl Lesseps 1, 08023 Barcelona, Spainjrvillal{at}


BACKGROUND A major factor influencing tobacco use is its price. Fiscal policies on tobacco are a key ingredient of any comprehensive control strategy, as they can be used to raise prices. The European Union (EU) developed directives to ensure some harmonisation of the fiscal pressure on tobacco across its member states.

OBJECTIVES To provide a simple comparison of tobacco prices in the EU, adjusting for the purchasing power of each currency.

DESIGN For price comparisons, a 20 units pack of Marlboro was the reference product, and data refer to April 2000. Purchasing power parities (PPP) for each member state currency have been compiled. These are currency conversion rates, which convert to a common currency and equalise the purchasing power of different currencies.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Nominal prices of a Marlboro pack for each member state, and a price index, estimated taking as reference the EU mean. Adjusted prices and an adjusted price index have been estimated using PPP.

RESULTS Nominal prices show wide variation, with the cheapest pack in Portugal (59) and the most expensive in the UK (196); the range of variation is three-fold. However, PPP adjusted prices reveal a different distribution. In three countries adjusted prices are outliers, but all other countries make two clusters, one around the average EU index of 100, the other around a lower value of 85.

CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that fiscal harmonisation policies in the EU do not have an even effect at reducing availability by its impact in price.

  • cigarette price
  • fiscal policy
  • health policy
  • European Union.

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