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Countering the demand for, and supply of, illicit tobacco: an assessment of the ‘North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health’ Programme

McNeill, Ann; Iringe-Koko, Belinda; Bains, Manpreet; Bauld, Linda; Siggens, Geoffrey; Russell, Andrew


Ann McNeill

Belinda Iringe-Koko

Linda Bauld

Geoffrey Siggens

Andrew Russell


Illicit tobacco (IT) undermines the effectiveness of tobacco control strategies. We assessed the implementation and impact of a new programme designed to reduce demand for, as well as supply of, IT, in the North of England, where IT was prevalent.

‘Mixed methods’ research was undertaken. Qualitative methods included stakeholder interviews (at outset and one year later) and ethnographic research. Indicators reflecting those supply and demand issues for which data were available were identified and monitored including relevant items on two cross-sectional surveys carried out in 2009 and 2011 with over 4000 individuals from which a social marketing campaign was also developed. IT reports to two existing hotlines, promoted through the programme, were assessed.

Initially, concerns abounded about the different philosophies and ways of working of local and national enforcement and health agencies, but these were greatly reduced at follow-up. A protocol was developed which greatly facilitated the flow of intelligence about IT supply. A social marketing campaign was developed highlighting two messages: IT makes it easier for children to start smoking and brings crime into the community, thereby avoiding misleading messages about relative harms of illicit and licit tobacco. Public and stakeholder awareness of IT increased as did calls to both hotlines.

A partnership of agencies, with competing values, was established to tackle IT, a complex public health issue and, inter alia, implemented a social marketing campaign utilising novel messages. This improved the flow of intelligence about the supply of IT and increased awareness of IT.


McNeill, A., Iringe-Koko, B., Bains, M., Bauld, L., Siggens, G., & Russell, A. (2014). Countering the demand for, and supply of, illicit tobacco: an assessment of the ‘North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health’ Programme. Tobacco Control, 23(e1), Article e44-e50.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 1, 2014
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2016
Journal Tobacco Control
Print ISSN 0964-4563
Electronic ISSN 1468-3318
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue e1
Article Number e44-e50
Keywords Illegal tobacco products; Public policy; Social marketing
Public URL
Publisher URL