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Longitudinal evaluation of the impact of standardised packaging and minimum excise tax on tobacco sales and industry revenue in the UK


Background Standardised packaging for factory-made cigarettes (FM) and roll-your-own tobacco (RYO), and a minimum excise tax (MET) were fully implemented in the UK in May 2017 following a 12-month transition period. This paper is the first to examine effects on tobacco sales volumes and company revenues.

Methods Analysis of UK commercial supermarket and convenience store electronic point of sale data on tobacco sales. FM and RYO products' data (May 2015–April 2018) yielded 107 572 monthly observations. Expected values from additive mixed modelling were used to calculate trends in: (1) volumes of tobacco sold overall, by cigarette type (FM and RYO) and by seven market segments; and (2) company net revenues. A 10-month period (June 2015–March 2016) before the transition to standardised packs was compared with a 10-month period after the introduction of the MET and full implementation of standardised packs (June 2017–March 2018).

Results Postimplementation, the average monthly decline in stick sales was 6.4 million (95% CI 0.1 million to 12.7 million) sticks faster than prelegislation, almost doubling the speed of decline. Sales of cheap FM brands, previously increasing, plateaued after implementation. Company monthly net revenues declined from a stable £231 million (95% CI £228 million to £234 million), prelegislation, to £198 million (95% CI £191 million to £206 million) in April 2018.

Conclusions The concurrent introduction of standardised packaging and MET in the UK was associated with significant decline in sales and in tobacco industry revenues, and the end of the previous growth in cheap cigarette brands that appeal to young and price conscious smokers.

  • tobacco industry
  • packaging and labelling
  • price
  • taxation

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  • Correction notice This paper has been updated since first published to update authors' order.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the research proposal, had input into the analysis and contributed substantially to redrafting. RH led the literature review, first draft of the paper, data curation, and study administration. RH contributed to the statistical analysis, data validation, and redrafting. NHA designed the statistical analysis and contributed to the first draft of the study. JRB contributed to the data validation. ABG was the principal investigator for the study and led the study design. ABG and RH are responsible for the overall content as guarantors. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding This paper was funded by Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation (grant number C27260/A23168). The call for proposals requested the analysis of sales data and the funders accepted the proposed design after referees’ comments.

  • Disclaimer The funders played no role in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data or the writing of the paper.

  • Competing interests JRB owns 10 shares in Imperial Tobacco for research purposes. The shares were a gift from a public health campaigner and are not held for financial gain or benefit. All dividends received are donated to tobacco/health related charities, and proceeds from any future share sale or takeover will be similarly donated.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by the head of department of the University of Bath Department for Health, in line with University of Bath guidelines for studies which do not include human participants.

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

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. We would like to thank Nielsen and Public Health England for provision of the sales data. Our contractual agreement does not allow us to share data.

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