Use of illicit tobacco following introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products in Australia: results from a national cross-sectional survey

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess whether following standardisation of tobacco packaging in Australia, smokers were, as predicted by the tobacco industry, more likely to use illicit tobacco.

Methods

National cross-sectional telephone surveys conducted continuously from April 2012 (6 months before implementation of plain packaging (PP)) to March 2014 (15 months after) using responses from current cigarette smokers (n=8679). Changes between pre-PP, the transition to PP and PP phase were examined using logistic regression models.

Results

Among those whose factory-made cigarettes were purchased in Australia, compared with pre-PP, there were no significant increases in the PP phase in use of: ‘cheap whites’ (<0.1%; OR=0.24, 95% CI 0.04 to 1.56, p=0.134); international brands purchased for 20% or more below the recommended retail price (0.2%; OR=3.49, 95% CI 0.66 to 18.35, p=0.140); or packs purchased from informal sellers (<0.1%; OR=0.24, 95% CI 0.04 to 1.47, p=0.124). The prevalence of any use of unbranded illicit tobacco remained at about 3% (adjusted OR=0.79, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.08, p=0.141).

Conclusions

While unable to quantify the total extent of use of illicit manufactured cigarettes, in this large national survey we found no evidence in Australia of increased use of two categories of manufactured cigarettes likely to be contraband, no increase in purchase from informal sellers and no increased use of unbranded illicit ‘chop-chop’ tobacco.

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