Standardised packaging for factory made and roll your own tobacco was implemented in the UK in May, 2017, alongside a minimum excise tax for factory made products. As other jurisdictions attempt to implement standardised packaging, the tobacco industry continues to suggest that it would be counterproductive, in part by leading to falls in price due to commoditisation. Here, we assess the impact of the introduction of these policies on the UK tobacco market.
We did a prospective study of UK commercial electronic point-of-sale data from 11 constituent geographic areas. The main outcomes were changes in sales volumes, volume-weighted real prices, and tobacco industry revenue. These were assessed using trend estimation from generalised additive mixed models. Products distributed to less than 10% of stores were excluded for sample design reasons; nevertheless, the analysis included an estimated 91% of the UK tobacco market products. The study did not require ethical approval.
107 572 monthly observations of products from May, 2015, to April,2018were included in the analysis. Introduction of standardised packaging and a minimum excise tax was associated with a doubling of the rate of sales decline. The most marked change in sales volumes was among the cheapest factory-made brands, where substantial sales growth stopped and prices rose markedly (prices increased by 0·035 p for the cheapest factory-made brands compared with 0·016 p across all factory-made brands and a 0·004 p increase across all products from May, 2015, to April, 2018). There was no evidence of commoditisation as market segmentation (price differentiation and different price trajectories for premium and lower priced products) continued. Company monthly net revenues declined from GBP £231 million (95% CI £222 million to £240 million) in May, 2015, to £192 million (£182 million to £201 million) in April, 2018.
The concurrently introduced policies of standardised packaging and minimum excise tax were associated with declining tobacco sales and tobacco industry revenue, which might underpin the tobacco industry's opposition to the policies. Prices at the end of the period were higher than the at the start, implying no long-term price falls. A minimum excise tax might limit the tobacco industry's ability to keep low-priced tobacco, which is popular with young and disadvantaged smokers, available. The complementary introduction of standardised packaging and the minimum excise tax meant effects could not be distinguished statistically.
Cancer Research UK and British Heart Foundation (grant number C27260/A23168).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S13
Number of pages1
JournalThe Lancet
Issue numberSupplement 2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


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