Table 1

Summary of published illicit trade papers in South Africa using different methods

PaperMethodSample sizeYears coveredData requiredScopeResultsAdvantagesDisadvantagesPractical tips
Vellios et al7Gap analysisMinimum: n=15 556, maximum: n=29 4582002–2017National survey data, tax-paid cigarette sales data from national government (local and imported) excise and VAT rates for cigarettesNationalIllicit trade was between 30% and 35% of the total market in 2017
  • Transparent

  • Replicable

  • Nationally representative

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Use of existing data

  • Can be updated each year if surveys are done annually

  • Results are sensitive to under-reporting assumptions

  • Requires government data on excise-paid cigarettes, which may not exist or may not be publicly available

  • Cannot distinguish between tax avoidance (legal) and tax evasion (illegal)

  • Relies on self-reported data

  • Presence of roll-your-own cigarettes might not be included in the official statistics, but are reported as cigarette consumption in surveys

  • Investigate existing data as variables on smoking may exist

  • Ensure imported cigarettes are accounted for in tax-paid cigarette sales data from government sources

Van der Zee et al8Price threshold—using existing dataN=22 4932017National survey data, excise and VAT rates for cigarettesNational30% of cigarettes consumed in 2017 were illicit
  • Use of existing data, therefore inexpensive

  • Relies on self-reported data

  • Estimates of illicit trade are sensitive to choice of price threshold. To account for this, use different levels as a sensitivity analysis

  • Investigate what national surveys are planned for the coming years and request the addition of questions

Van der Zee et al9Price threshold—collecting data from smokersRound 1: n=1234, round 2: n=11932017 and 2018Primary data collection and excise and VAT rates for cigarettesLow socioeconomic areas (six townships across four of South Africa’s nine provinces)In 2017 and 2018, respectively, 35% and
36% of smokers in the sample purchased illicit cigarettes
Researchers can target specific demographic and socioeconomic groups
  • Expensive—about R250 000 (US$20 000) per round

  • Dangerous

  • Relies on self-reported data

  • Requires ethics clearance

  • Respondents may think fieldworkers are linked to the police and may not declare true price paid for cigarettes

  • If weights are not applied, the sample will not be representative

  • State in the information sheet and consent form that the survey is not linked to the police

  • Use a survey company with local knowledge and experience