Table 3

Coded data sources with descriptions & limitations

Data sourceDescriptionLimitations of approachAssessments identified in
Survey (tobacco consumer)Self-reported information on illicit tobacco consumption and/or related purchase behaviours is gathered from surveying tobacco consumers. Survey data may be collected in person, by mail, online or by phone.Questionable validity due to potential under-reporting as a result of stigma associated with illicit behaviour.51 54 Approach is also open to manipulation as sampling frame and survey questions may be defined with the intention to overestimate the size of the illicit market.51 1 44–46 48 54 55 57 58 60 65 66 68–71 74 75 78–80
Empty Pack Survey (EPS)EPS measures non-domestic product through the collection of discarded cigarette packs and determination of their tax status.1 Cannot distinguish between legal and illicit non-domestic product and cannot identify counterfeits without a lab test.54 Additionally, it is difficult for EPS to account for tourists and commuters and estimates are narrowly limited by geographical location.53 54 1 37 41 46 47 54 56 60 61 68–71 75 77–80
Sales dataMany countries, usually through government agencies, hold reliable statistics about tax-paid sales of tobacco products.51 TTCs also hold data on sales of their own products.Reliable tax-paid sales data in certain countries may not be publicly available54 and temporal biases may exist, as tax-paid sales measures tend to reflect factory or wholesale level shipments, not actual consumption.53 46 47 54 55 59 65 68 71 75 80
Seizure dataData on the amount of illicit tobacco product seized by a countries’ law enforcement/customs authorities.Can overestimate counterfeit cigarettes. As TTCs (in many jurisdictions) determine the origin of a seized product, they may identify their own products as counterfeits in order to avoid the payment of penalties.54 113–116 Estimates from seizure data also depend heavily on levels of enforcement—a factor which can change over time and skew results (eg, law enforcement budget increases which lead to more seizures could be misconstrued as signalling a growth in seizable product on the market).54 44 46 65 75 76 79 80
Expert input/opinionThose with special insight into ITT, such as researchers and law enforcement officials, are a potential data source for information on ITT. They may be contacted for information, directly questioned, or their opinions may be presented to support a conclusion.51 Opinions are subjective and open to bias due to individual experience, interests, media exposure, etc.54 45 46 65 75 79 80
Export and import/international trade statisticsWhere countries record the quantity of both imports and exports of tobacco products by country of destination, these data can be collected over time and compared with mirror image in the receiving/exporting country.51 Trade data do not always match correctly within a given month or year, as imports/exports may not be marked as such immediately or soon after arrival. Measures for reporting imports/exports are volatile as monetary values are subject to changes in currency exchange and volume measurements may not be consistent over time (eg, may change from weight to number of cigarettes).54 46 54 65 80
Survey (tobacco retailer)Retailers may be questioned on their perceptions of issues including illicit tobacco use and availability.Retailer surveys are not a legitimate measure of illicit tobacco trade as retailer’s perceptions of the availability of illicit tobacco are not indicative of levels of consumption and can be unreliable. Retailer surveys are also vulnerable to limitations applicable to consumer surveys. 63
UnclearThe assessment did not provide enough information to determine the data collection method/s used in the assessed data.NA 37 44 62 64 67 72–74 76
  • ITT, illicit tobacco trade; NA, not applicable; TTC, Transnational tobacco company.