Explaining the Consumption of Illicit Cigarettes

Alberto Aziani*, Francesco Calderoni, Marco Dugato

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


Objectives: What drives the consumption of illicit cigarettes? While criminology has rarely addressed the divers of the illicit cigarette markets from a theoretical and empirical perspective, studies from other disciplines point to two classes of causes. Some studies stress the impact of cigarette prices and taxes on the market for illicit cigarette; others emphasize the importance of different non-price factors, including informal economy and corruption. This study tests the influence of both price and non-price factors on the illicit cigarette market. Methods: Multilevel growth curve analysis—three-level MLM for longitudinal measures—of the illicit cigarette market at the subnational level in the European Union. The analysis focuses on 247 regions in the EU between 2007 and 2013. Results: This study shows that both price and non-price factors influence illicit cigarette consumption. Lower affordability of legal products, proximity to sources of cheap cigarettes, higher national income inequality, greater population density, and the levels of illicit cigarettes in neighboring regions are associated with higher illicit consumption. On the contrary, there is no empirical evidence of the role of two ‘usual suspects’: corruption and shadow economy. The paper also shows that the market for illegal cigarettes is shaped by both demand and supply factors. Conclusions: The geographic concentration of illicit consumption and smuggling calls for the creation of anti-illicit-trade units in most densely populated areas or custom task forces at the most sensitive borders. The disproportionate relevance of illicit flows from eastern non-EU countries suggests to increase the political pressure on these source countries. Finally, given the importance of the demand side in determining the size of the illicit market, price increases should be matched with consumer awareness campaigns. These campaigns should focus on the societal consequences of purchasing illicit cigarettes together with illustrating the harm of consuming tobacco products.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)751-789
Numero di pagine39
RivistaJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2021


  • Cigarette smuggling
  • Cigarette trafficking
  • Illicit trade
  • Multilevel analysis
  • Smoke reduction


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