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Consumption of legal and illegal cigarettes in the Gambia
  1. Zunda Chisha1,
  2. Mohammed L Janneh2,
  3. Hana Ross1
  1. 1Economics of Tobacco Control Project, Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2Ministry of Finance, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics, Banjul, Gambia
  1. Correspondence to Zunda Chisha, Economics of Tobacco Control Project, Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town 7700, South Africa; zundac{at}


Background The prevalence of cigarette smoking in the Gambia is relatively high, compared with most African countries. Little is known about the characteristics of the smokers and their habits, particularly with regard to tobacco tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Methods A nationally representative survey of 1211 smokers conducted in November/December 2017 employed a three-stage stratified sampling method and resulted in 1205 complete observations. The sociodemographic characteristics and smoking behaviours were analysed, including smoking intensity and brand preferences. Information on the physical features of cigarette packs that smokers had, observed by enumerators, and self-reported cigarette prices were used to estimate the proportion of illegal cigarettes on the market.

Findings As in many African countries, most smokers were male, between the ages of 25 and 54 years living primarily in urban areas. The three most popular cigarette brands are Piccadilly, Royal Business and Bond Street, which account for over three-quarters of all cigarette purchases. Price information suggests that about 7.3% of smokers purchased an illicit cigarette at their last purchase. When smoking intensity was taken into account, 8.6% of the total cigarette market was estimated to be illicit. Using an alternative method of evaluating pack’s features revealed that only 0.9% of last purchases were illicit.

Conclusion Despite recent excise tobacco tax increases, the use of illicit cigarettes in the Gambia is low and does not represent a significant obstacle to reaching both the public health and fiscal goals of higher tobacco taxes.

  • illegal tobacco products
  • low/middle-income country
  • packaging and labelling
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  • Contributors HR conceptualised the research. ZC and MLJ designed the questionnaires with input from HR. MLJ managed the project in the Gambia and coordinated the data collection. ZC analysed the data. The results were synthesised and written by ZC and HR, with inputs from MLJ. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The funding for this study came from the Cancer Research UK (IRMA number 30845).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data sharing statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

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