Home > Trends in cross-border and illicit tobacco purchases among people who smoke in England, 2019-2022.

Jackson, Sarah E and Cox, Sharon and Brown, Jamie (2023) Trends in cross-border and illicit tobacco purchases among people who smoke in England, 2019-2022. Tobacco Control, Early online, https://doi.org/10.1136/tc-2023-057991.

External website: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2023/...

OBJECTIVES The last 5 years have seen substantial changes in England's social and economic landscape as a result of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis. We aimed to examine changes in cross-border and illicit tobacco purchasing over this period.

DESIGN Nationally representative monthly cross-sectional survey.

SETTING England, 2019-2022.

PARTICIPANTS 11 232 adults (≥18 years) who smoked in the past year.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES We estimated time trends in the proportion reporting purchasing tobacco from (1) cross-border and (2) illicit sources in the past 6 months.

RESULTS Between February 2019 and October 2022, there was a non-linear increase in the proportion of participants reporting cross-border tobacco purchases (from 5.2% to 16.1% overall; prevalence ratio (PR)=3.10, 95% CI 2.03-4.73). Prevalence first increased from 5.2% to 15.4% between February 2019 and April 2020, before falling to 7.8% between April 2020 and September 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then increasing again to 16.1% by the end of the period. Changes in cross-border tobacco purchasing were more pronounced among participants from more advantaged (from 6.6% to 23.3%; PR=3.52, 95% CI 2.05-5.91) compared with less advantaged (4.4% to 11.5%; PR=2.61, 95% CI 1.17-5.20) social grades (p=0.034). There was no overall change in the proportion reporting illicit tobacco purchases (from 9.2% to 8.5%; PR=0.92, 95% CI 0.70-1.21), nor any significant difference in trends by social grade (p=0.783).

CONCLUSIONS Despite a fall in cross-border tobacco purchasing during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic among adults in England who smoke, the proportion reporting cross-border tobacco purchases is now three times higher than it was at the start of 2019. The proportion reporting illicit tobacco purchases has not changed substantially.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
18 July 2023
Identification #
BMJ Publishing
Early online

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