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Is the illicit cigarette market really growing? The tobacco industry’s misleading math trick

The tobacco industry regularly uses the threat of increased illicit cigarette trade to dissuade governments from implementing prohealth policies. Illicit trade is the number one argument used by the tobacco lobby to oppose tobacco tax increases,1 and is also being used against implementation of other major tobacco control measures such as plain packaging, display bans and pack size restrictions.2

Studies funded and presented by cigarette manufacturers and their business associations are generally not peer-reviewed or replicable and therefore, do not meet standards of academic research.3 A growing body of evidence suggests that estimates of the illicit cigarette trade levels presented in the industry-commissioned reports are often inflated.4–10

Another tactic used by the tobacco industry to exaggerate the scope of the illicit cigarette trade problem is to use illicit cigarette market share rather than the absolute number

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