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Assessing cigarette smuggling at a time of border closure to international tourists: survey of littered packs in New Zealand
  1. Nick Wilson1,
  2. Rachel Carter1,
  3. Deborah Heath2,
  4. Zhang Wei1,
  5. Emmanuelle Martinez3,
  6. Lindsay Robertson4,
  7. Paaras Zhangmo5,
  8. Sophia Bloomfield5,
  9. George W Thomson1,
  10. Janet Hoek1,
  11. Richard Edwards1
  1. 1 Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2 Independent Researcher, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. 3 M2M (Maunga to Moana) Consulting, Whangarei, New Zealand
  4. 4 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  5. 5 Auckland District Health Board, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Professor Nick Wilson, Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington HU6 7RX, New Zealand; nwilson{at}

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Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) is a country with a tobacco endgame plan that includes denicotinisation of tobacco.1 2 Because of concerns these measures could increase tobacco smuggling, we aimed to provide new baseline data on such smuggling. We studied littered tobacco packs during a ‘natural experiment’ when no international tourists and relatively few NZ travellers arrived due to COVID-19-related border controls (eg, typically requiring 2 weeks of facility-based quarantine for NZ citizens only). That is, we assumed that during this period, the proportion of littered packs which were foreign was likely to reflect levels of smuggling. Evidence suggests tobacco smuggling into NZ occurs mainly via shipping containers, the postal system and international airline staff.3–5


Collection of tobacco packaging litter by all the authors through convenience sampling while on routine travel around the country, supplemented with purposeful sampling in key cities and major ports. Further details on methods, results and discussion are available in the online supplemental file.

Supplemental material



A total of 1590 tobacco packs was collected between May 2021 and April 2022. Packs came from …

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  • Contributors The study was conceived by NW and designed by NW, JH, RE and LR. Data collection was performed and/or organised by NW, RC, DH, ZW, EM, LR, PZ, SB, GWT, JH and RE. Data collation was by RC, NW and ZW. NW conducted data analysis and wrote the first draft. All authors (NW, RC, DH, ZW, EM, LR, PZ, SB, GWT, JH and RE) checked the final version of the manuscript.

  • 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.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.