Understanding current problems and practices in the illicit tobacco trade and their implications for public health

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The Illicit Tobacco Trade (ITT) has serious public health implications and has historically been fuelled by Transnational Tobacco Company (TTC) complicity. Despite this, the role of the tobacco industry in the contemporary ITT and related policy measures has been unclear. This has become particularly important with the advent of the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP), which aims to address the ITT by establishing a global tobacco tracking and tracing (T&T) regime. This thesis investigates current problems and practices in the ITT, the tobacco industry’s relationship to them and implications for public health.In Chapter 2, assessments of tobacco industry-funded data on the ITT were systematically collected and reviewed, demonstrating that such data overestimate the ITT and are unreliable. In Chapter 3, analysis of tobacco industry documents was used to understand industry motivations and actions in relation to the ITP, finding that TTCs have attempted to influence tobacco T&T, making extensive use of third parties to obfuscate these efforts. The most recent data on the ITT provides a motivation for such behaviour, showing that TTC supply chains are the primary source of cigarettes on the ITT and, as such, current industry business practices would be disrupted by the implementation of effective T&T systems. In Chapter 4, document analysis and investigative research methods determined that TTC efforts to influence the largest implementation of T&T to date (the EU) were effective. In Chapter 5, investigative methods, statistical analysis and social network analysis explored responses to the EU’s consultation on T&T. Respondents with financial links to the tobacco industry collectively favoured a T&T system operated by the industry. These findings demonstrate that the tobacco industry poses a substantial threat to public health through its funding of unreliable data on the ITT, continued fuelling of the ITT, and attempts to control policy measures aimed at addressing the ITT. Policy solutions for these challenges are explored.
Date of Award1 Apr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAnna Gilmore (Supervisor), Karen Evans-Reeves (Supervisor) & Jennifer Hatchard (Supervisor)


  • illicit tobacco
  • tobacco control
  • public health
  • Public Policy
  • tobacco

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