To estimate the prevalence of illicit tobacco trade (ITT) and different ITT modes—tax stamp counterfeiting and smuggling—in Argentina.
Cross-sectional study using an empty tobacco pack survey with a simple random cluster sampling design. Classification as licit/illicit using forensic analysis of tax stamps and packs and econometric modelling.
Cities of Buenos Aires, La Matanza, Cordoba, Rosario, Mendoza, Neuquen, Posadas, Salta; January–June 2019.
Of a total sample of 15 658 packs, 83.2% were manufactured in Argentina and 16.8% were foreign packs. Overall ITT prevalence—weighted by district population size—was estimated at 13.7%, where 6.1% was attributable to stamp counterfeiting—that is, a forged stamp not issued by the national tax authority—and 7.6% to contraband smuggling of foreign cigarette packs—that is, illicit trade of packs across national borders.
The ITT problem in Argentina seems to be equally represented by counterfeiting of tobacco tax stamps on packs with domestic features and smuggling of foreign cigarette packs. Foreign cigarettes represent a minor component of the pack sampled in most of the country, except in Salta and Posadas, which are located close to the border with Paraguay. It is essential to implement an effective track-and-trace system including the monitoring of tax stamp authenticity and increase border control to block the entry of smuggled products, particularly from Paraguay. Reducing ITT is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of tobacco taxation measures.