Background The European Union (EU)-wide tobacco tracking and tracing system (T&T system) became operational on 20 May 2019, allowing a transitional period and gradual installation of the system until May 2020. This study attempts to assess the EU T&T system using a sample of discarded cigarette packs collected in Lithuania.
Methods The empty pack survey was conducted between September 2019 and September 2020, covering both the transitional period and the period of full implementation. The study employed a two-stage cluster design by first randomly selecting 65 well-defined population clusters (30 cities and 35 towns) representing both urban and rural areas in all 10 counties in Lithuania. Second, we randomly selected 358 polling districts (routes) in each cluster.
Results The fieldworkers walked at least 1074 km and collected 5727 discarded empty cigarette packs. None of the packs found during the EU T&T transitional period had a unique identifier (UI). After the full implementation of the EU T&T system, 32.0% of the collected packs were still without a UI. 5.8% of licit packs were without a UI after the May 2020 deadline. Most of the legal non-compliant packs (131, or 69.7%) were intended for the Lithuanian market. Close to 85% of packs that had duty-free markings were non-compliant.
Conclusion The tobacco industry most likely disregarded the EU T&T transitional period as no packs with UIs were found up until the full implementation. Packs without UIs were still found 4 months after the full implementation of the EU T&T system.
- tobacco industry
- illegal tobacco products
- packaging and labelling
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Contributors Both authors conceptualised and wrote the paper. Both authors edited and approved the final version.
Funding The State Public Health Promotion Fund (Lithuania), grant number PRM18-163-18/11/12/02, H2020-MSCA-RISE project GEMCLIME-2020 GA no. 681228 and Cancer Research UK grant number C62640/A24723.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.