Tobacco Control

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

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.

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.

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.


Giovanni Occhiali

Dr Giovanni Occhiali is a Development Economist based at the Institute of Development Studies, where he works on a number of projects related to Tax Administration and Compliance, Tax and Governance and co-leads ICTD’s capacity building programme together with Dr Max Gallien. His research focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, and outside of the field of taxation his main interests are energy economics and industrial policies. He holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and prior to joining ICTD, he was a Researcher at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei and an Overseas Development Institute Fellow at the National Revenue Authority of Sierra Leone.

Max Gallien

Max Gallien is a Research Fellow at the ICTD. His research specialises in the politics of informal and illegal economies, the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa and development politics. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Max co-leads the informality and taxation programme with Vanessa, as well as the ICTD’s capacity building programme.