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Analysis of tobacco industry pricing strategies in 23 European Union countries using commercial pricing data
  1. May C I van Schalkwyk1,
  2. Martin McKee2,
  3. Jasper V Been3,4,
  4. Christopher Millett1,
  5. Filippos T Filippidis1
  1. 1 Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Paediatrics, division of Neonatology, and Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Sophia Children’s Hospital, University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  4. 4 Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr May C I van Schalkwyk, Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London W6 8RP, UK; m.van-schalkwyk{at}


Background The tobacco industry (TI) can act to undermine the impact of tobacco tax increases by adopting various pricing strategies. Little is known about strategies used across the European Union (EU), except for the UK.

Aim To examine pricing strategies adopted by the TI in the EU, and whether they differ by cigarette price segment, or between manufactured and roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes.

Methods This is a longitudinal analysis of commercial pricing data for manufactured and RYO cigarettes from 23 EU countries in 2006–2017. Price and revenue trends were explored. Linear regression estimated the average annual change in revenue, and linear fixed-effects panel regression models were used to explore the association between changes in median revenue (net of tax and adjusted for inflation) and tax increases in different price segments of manufactured cigarettes.

Results Over the 11-year period price gaps were observed in all countries. The average annual adjusted median net revenue per pack increased in 19 of 23 countries for manufactured and RYO cigarettes. A tax increase was associated with a significant decrease of −€0.09 in adjusted median net revenue per pack (95% CI −0.16 to −0.03) in the cheap cigarette price segment, while no change was detected in the expensive cigarette price segment (−€0.05, 95% CI −0.11 to 0.01).

Conclusion Across the EU, pricing strategies adopted by the TI maintained or increased price gaps and retained cheaper tobacco products in the market, diminishing the impact of tobacco tax increases. Further strengthening of tobacco taxation policy is needed to maximise public health impact.

  • tobacco industry
  • taxation
  • public policy
  • price
  • hand-rolled/ryo tobacco

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  • Contributors MCIvS, FTF and MM developed the initial research concept and design. MCIvS performed the analyses with the support of FTF and MM. MCIvS drafted the original manuscript. FTF, MM, CM and JVB contributed to manuscript preparation, interpretation and discussion of the findings.

  • Funding JVB is supported by personal fellowships from the Netherlands Lung Foundation and Erasmus MC. CM is funded through a Research Professorship award (NIHR RP_2014- 04-032) from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit is grateful for support from the NIHR School for Public Health Research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.