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Illicit tobacco trade: empty pack survey in eight Argentinean cities
  1. Maria Elisabet Pizarro1,
  2. Gabriel Giacobone1,
  3. Cinthia Shammah1,
  4. Michal Stoklosa2
  1. 1 FIC Argentina, CABA, Argentina
  2. 2 Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Maria Elisabet Pizarro, FIC Argentina, FIC Argentina, CABA (1425), Argentina; marita.pizarro{at}


Objective To estimate the prevalence of illicit tobacco trade (ITT) and different ITT modes—tax stamp counterfeiting and smuggling—in Argentina.

Design Cross-sectional study using an empty tobacco pack survey with a simple random cluster sampling design. Classification as licit/illicit using forensic analysis of tax stamps and packs and econometric modelling.

Setting Cities of Buenos Aires, La Matanza, Cordoba, Rosario, Mendoza, Neuquen, Posadas, Salta; January–June 2019.

Results Of a total sample of 15 658 packs, 83.2% were manufactured in Argentina and 16.8% were foreign packs. Overall ITT prevalence—weighted by district population size—was estimated at 13.7%, where 6.1% was attributable to stamp counterfeiting—that is, a forged stamp not issued by the national tax authority—and 7.6% to contraband smuggling of foreign cigarette packs—that is, illicit trade of packs across national borders.

Conclusions The ITT problem in Argentina seems to be equally represented by counterfeiting of tobacco tax stamps on packs with domestic features and smuggling of foreign cigarette packs. Foreign cigarettes represent a minor component of the pack sampled in most of the country, except in Salta and Posadas, which are located close to the border with Paraguay. It is essential to implement an effective track-and-trace system including the monitoring of tax stamp authenticity and increase border control to block the entry of smuggled products, particularly from Paraguay. Reducing ITT is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of tobacco taxation measures.

  • economics
  • illegal tobacco products
  • public policy
  • low/middle income country

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors MEP devised and supervised the study and led data analysis and interpretation. GG designed the methodology and conducted the data analysis. GG and CS coordinated fieldwork and data collection. MS provided methodological advice. All authors participated in drafting and revising the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS) under grant #40971.

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of the ACS.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

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