Tobacco industry tactics in response to cigarette excise tax increases in Mauritius
Publication Source

Tobacco Control

Journal article
Economy status
High-income economies

In response to high smoking rates, especially among men, Mauritius launched a National Action Plan on Tobacco Control in 2008. It changed its tax system from a mixed system to a uniform specific system. Despite these interventions, cigarette consumption and smoking prevalence in Mauritius decreased only marginally in the subsequent decade.

Using publicly available data, we decompose the retail price of cigarettes into tax and net-of-tax components, between 2011 and 2017. We cover premium, popular and economy cigarettes.

Since its introduction in 2008, the nominal excise tax was increased six times. Between 2011 and 2017, the real value of the excise tax increased by 47%. Meanwhile, British American Tobacco (BAT) increased the real net-of-tax price of premium cigarettes by 61.8% and of popular cigarettes by 47.2%, thus overshifting the tax increase. On economy cigarettes, BAT decreased the real net-of-tax price by 14.7%, thus undershifting the excise tax increase.

Through its pricing strategy, BAT has greatly undermined Mauritius’s tobacco control policy. However, BAT cannot continue undershifting the excise tax on economy brands, since the net-of-tax proportion of the retail price is very low already. BAT would have little choice but to increase the retail price on economy brands in response to future excise tax increases. The government of Mauritius is encouraged to keep the specific excise tax structure but to increase the rate at which it is levied.