No smoking gun: tobacco taxation and smuggling in Sierra Leone

Authors: Giovanni Occhiali & Max Gallien
Publisher: BMJ Journals
Date: June 2022

Abstract:

Tobacco Control

Objective
To evaluate the common industry claim that higher tobacco taxation leads to higher levels of smuggling, particularly in a limited state capacity setting.

Design
This paper evaluates the effects of a tobacco tax increase in Sierra Leone on smuggling by using gap analyses. Its models are based on multiple rounds of the Demographic and Health Survey and customs data as well as newly collected data on cigarette prices.

Results
The paper shows that despite a substantial increase in cigarette taxation, and despite the absence of other formal tobacco control policies, smuggling has not increased in Sierra Leone. Its primary model shows a decrease in cigarette smuggling by 16.74% following the tax increase, alongside a decrease in cigarette consumption more widely and an increase in tax revenue.

Conclusions
By presenting a low income and lower enforcement capacity case study, this paper provides novel and critical evidence to the debate on the tax-smuggling link. Furthermore, it points to new questions on how states in these contexts can limit cigarette smuggling.

Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request.