Effective tobacco tax increases reduce tobacco consumption, threatening the profitability of the tobacco industry. In response, the tobacco industry employs strategies to negate or minimize the full effects of tobacco tax increases. By interacting with various government agencies and non-governmental organizations we identified seven such strategies: stockpiling, changing product attributes or production processes, lowering prices, over-shifting prices, under-shifting prices, timing of price increases, and engaging in price discrimination and/or offering promotions. Each strategy is described in terms of the motivation for their employment, the consequences for tobacco use and tax revenue, and measures to counter them. Country case studies illustrate the successful execution of the strategies and possible government responses.
Many of the tobacco industry’s responses to tobacco tax increases are predictable, since they are being employed systematically across countries. Governments can and should adopt appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce tobacco industry manipulation. This requires systematic data collection in order to monitor tobacco industry behavior.