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Illicit cigarette trade in Metropolitan Santiago de Chile


Objective To estimate with a rigorous statistical methodology and independent from the tobacco industry the prevalence and consumption of illicit cigarettes in Metropolitan Santiago de Chile, in addition to identifying the variables statistically associated with choosing to smoke illicit cigarettes.

Methods Surveys of 851 smokers who reside in the Metropolitan Santiago were collected using a sampling design that combined a randomisation of high-traffic points and a quota sampling to approximate the smoking population. Photographs of packs along with questions on where they were bought were used to define whether cigarettes were licit or illicit. After this identification, the statistical association between the decision to smoke illicit cigarettes and sociodemographic variables and smoking habits was estimated using probit models.

Results The proportion of smokers smoking illicit cigarettes in Metropolitan Santiago was 10.9%. Adjusted by smoking intensity, 16.3% of cigarettes smoked in a month were illicit. Models show that the probability of smoking illicit cigarettes is inversely associated with employment status (ie, employed/inactive/unemployed), and smokers with lower levels of education are more likely to smoke illicit cigarettes. Though smokers’ incomes are not directly measured, both employment status and educational levels are indicative that illicit cigarette consumption is more prevalent among low-income groups.

Conclusions The proportion of smokers consuming illicit cigarettes estimated in this research is less than half of the widely publicised claims of the tobacco industry. Furthermore, past and present pricing strategies by the tobacco industry indicate that, contrary to public statements, the tobacco industry is not concerned by illicit trade.

  • illegal tobacco products
  • public policy
  • taxation
  • tobacco industry

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