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Categorising characteristics of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes: a systematic review of tobacco industry documents
  1. Marin K Kurti1,
  2. Klaus von Lampe2,
  3. Yi He3,
  4. Hiba Khanzada4,
  5. Konstantina Kostara5,
  6. Qin Da6,
  7. Kevin R J Schroth1
  1. 1 Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers School of Public Health, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2 Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3 Department of Sciences, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA
  4. 4 Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fordham University, Bronx, New York, USA
  6. 6 Institute of Forensic Science, Ministry of Public Security, Beijing, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Marin K Kurti, Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers School of Public Health, New Brunswick, NJ 08854, USA; marin.kurti{at}


Background There is scant research on methods used to identify counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes.

Methods Systematic analysis of internal tobacco industry documents characteristics of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes.

Results In the industry documents we identified as relevant, there were 42 characteristics of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes. Overall, physical characteristics (88.1%) were the most commonly identified features across all locations, with the pack blank, cardboard shell of the cigarette pack, as the dominant site (30.9%). Some of the physical characteristics included offset lithography printing, incorrect font and colour. Overall, light microscopy was identified as the main method of forensic analysis for detecting counterfeits.

Conclusion Independent researchers employing litter pack and pack swap surveys are encouraged to use the characteristics identified in the study to gauge the prevalence of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes and compare against industry estimates.

  • illegal tobacco products
  • packaging and labelling
  • tobacco industry documents
  • toxicology

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  • Contributors This paper was conceptualised by MK, KVL and YH. Content analysis was conducted by KK and HK. YH and DQ identified forensic instruments that could be used to identify selected characteristics. Paper was written and edited by MK, KVL, HY, DQ and KJRS.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data sharing statement Researchers can request a comprehensive list of the counterfeit identifiers by contacting the corresponding author.