Contraband and Counterfeit Tobacco - exploring an economic disincentive to the denormalization of tobacco

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Anthropology

Abstract

Smoking is the number one preventable cause of illness and death in the UK. Efforts to encourage smokers to reduce consumption or preferably quit, and to discourage children and young people from starting to smoke in the first place, are being stymied by the tide of smuggled cigarettes engulfing the country (an estimated 16% of the total tobacco consumed in the UK). Deprived communities in particular are being targetted by criminal gangs offering illegal tobacco products, sometimes at less than half the price of normal cigarettes. The North East of England is a hub for this activity. Cigarette smuggling costs the UK Treasury over #3 billion per year in lost revenue and has a massive impact on people s health, since smokers have less incentive to stop smoking if they can buy cheap cigarettes, and are likely to smoke more. In addition, over half the smuggled cigarettes are thought to be fakes, made in illicit factories in China and Eastern Europe. Fake cigarettes have particularly high levels of heavy metals and tars, and hence are even more hazardous to health than ordinary cigarettes. This project aims to increase our knowledge of the little understood criminal economy operating on our doorstep. Using detailed case records obtained through an earlier, EU funded
project, it will reveal more about how this damaging trade is organized and run, the different kinds of smuggling that take place, the criminal firms that do it and the people they supply. The research will help health promotion workers to better target their campaigns on this topic, and HM Revenue and Customs to better target their efforts to prevent illegal shipments coming into the country.

Technical Summary

Contraband and counterfeit tobacco represents a major stumbling block to efforts to control tobacco use through taxation and other legislative means. Little is known about the organization of the trade in smuggled tobacco. This project draws on a rich data set collected for an earlier, EU-funded project into the operation of organized crime in tobacco. It will focus on the trade in smuggled tobacco in the north east of England, a region where this sort of tobacco is widely used, particularly in deprived communities. The research will have implications for policy and practice of Smoke Free North East and the Revenue and Customs services, who are collaborators in the project.
 
Description North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description NPRI
Amount £166,064 (GBP)
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Department National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI)
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2008 
End 08/2010
 
Description Action on Smoking and Health 
Organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Attended the 5th Conference of the Parties for the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Collaborator Contribution Permitted my accreditation to attend conference
Impact Distributed information about the North of England Illicit Tobacco Programme via the Framework Convention Alliance at the conference
Start Year 2012
 
Description UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies 
Organisation UK Clinical Research Collaboration
Department UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Qualitative process research on the North of England Illicit Tobacco Programme
Collaborator Contribution Interdisciplinary input, bring qualitative and quantitative research approaches and techniques together in a single project.
Impact McNeill A, Bauld L, Britton J, Carro-Ripalda S, Eadle D, Heckler S, Hornsby R, Iringe-Koko B, Lewis S, McEwen A, Russell A. (2010) North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health. Interim Evaluation Report. UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. This is a multi-disciplinary collaboration involving social and political scientists, criminology and psychology
Start Year 2010
 
Description 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented paper 'Contraband and Counterfeit Tobacco - Exploring an Economic Disincentive to the Denormalization of Tobacco' in session 'Contraband and Counterfeit'.

None as yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description BBC Scotland Documentary involvement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Requested by BBC (Scotland) Documentary team for academic research involvement withn a documentary on cigarette smuggling and its impact upon public health. The documentary 'Smoking and the Bandits' will be forthcoming in 2011.

It is expected that the impact will broaden public knowledge of the detrimental impacts cigarette smuggling incurs to public health issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description BBC morning news slot 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Rob Hornsby, along with Richard Ferry of NE Trading Standards, spoke about the cheap and illicit tobacco problem as a useful 'fill in' on the morning news programme

None as yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Contribution to interim report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Provided information for evaluation of the North of England Cheap and Illict tobacco strategy interim report

Discussion of issues amongst key stakeholders delivering the strategy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Otrnato legality experience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact September 3rd the first international forum on transnational organised crime, illegal economies and globalisation where Dr Hornsby was invited as a guest speaker to discuss the tobacco smuggling market and public health in the UK to an international audience

Widened international knowlledge of the issues of cigarette smuggling in the UK and its impact upon public health
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Panorama documentary 'Smoking and the Bandits' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Research Associate appeared as expert on the smuggled cigarette market in the UK.

Programme widely used and referred to by tobacco control initiatives aimed at reducing consumption of illegal tobacco products, especially on and around World Smoking Day 2011.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Quarterly research meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 60 people attended the meeting

None
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Research Digest - Stopping Smoking 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contributed to Research Digest which accompanied this workshop; facilitated discussion groups.

New research ideas originating from the local authority and other representatives themselves.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009