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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