Estimating the magnitude of illicit cigarette trade in Bangladesh: protocol for a mixed-methods study

S. M. Abdullah*, Rumana Huque, Linda Bauld, Hana Ross, Anna Gilmore, Rijo M. John, Fiona Dobbie, Kamran Siddiqi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The illicit tobacco trade undermines the effectiveness of tobacco tax policies; increases the availability of cheap cigarettes, which, in turn, increases tobacco use and tobacco related deaths; and causes huge revenue losses to governments. There is limited evidence on the extent of illicit tobacco trade particularly cigarettes in Bangladesh. The paper presents the protocol for a mixed-methods study to estimate the extent of illicit cigarette trade in Bangladesh. The study will address three research questions: (a) What proportion of cigarettes sold as retail are illicit? (b) What are the common types of tax avoidance and tax evasion? (c) Can pack examination from the trash recycle market be considered as a new method to assess illicit trade in comparison to that from retailers and streets? Following an observational research method, data will be collected utilizing empty cigarette packs from three sources: (a) retailers; (b) streets; and (c) trash recycle market. In addition, a structured questionnaire will be used to collect information from retailers selling cigarettes. We will select post codes as Primary Sampling Unit (PSU) using a multi-stage random sampling technique. We will randomly select eight districts from eight divisions stratified by those with land border and non-land border; and within each district, we will randomly select ten postcodes, stratified by rural (five) and urban (five) PSU to ensure maximum geographical variation, leading to a total of eighty post codes from eight districts. The analysis will report the proportions of packs that do not comply with the study definition of illicit. Independent estimates of illicit tobacco are rare in low-and middle-income countries such as Bangladesh. Findings will inform efforts by revenue authorities and others to address the effects of illicit trade and counter tobacco industry claims.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4791
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is being conducted as part of a research consortium of fifteen partner organizations across eight countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, South Africa, the Gambia, Uganda, and the UK) funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund in the UK and named the “Tobacco Control Capacity Programme” [39]. We have established a national stakeholders’ group in Bangladesh and arranged several stakeholder engagement meetings to get their feedback on the study protocol.

Funding Information:
The study was funded as part of the Tobacco Control Capacity Program (TCCP). This work was supported by the Medical Research Council, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) with funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (MR/P027946/2). The TCCP is a program of capacity development and research coordinated by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and involves 15 partner institutions from Africa, South Asia and the United Kingdom.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Bangladesh
  • Illicit trade
  • Low-and middle-income countries
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco

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