Despite claims by tobacco companies that plain packaging would lead to lower cigarette prices, recommended and observed real cigarette prices in Australia rose in the 9–11 months after plain packaging was introduced. However, little is known about trends in prices longer term. In this report, we assess whether inflation (Consumer Price Index; CPI) and tax adjusted (‘CPI-tax-adjusted’) prices of the market-leading Australian cigarette brand changed in the 3-year period after plain packaging, and whether price changes were associated with retailer characteristics.
Cigarette prices were ascertained from a panel of tobacco retailers at three time points: (1) in November 2012 (n=857) (before full implementation of plain packaging, compulsory in retail outlets from December 2012), (2) between October 2014 and February 2015 (n=789) and (3) between November 2015 and March 2016 (n=579). Generalised estimating equations were used to estimate percentage change in mean CPI/tax-adjusted cigarette prices over time.
CPI/tax-adjusted adjusted mean stick prices rose by 13.7% (95% CI 13.0 to 16.0) and 15.2% (95% CI 14.3 to 16.0) at 2.1 and 3.1 years after plain packaging was introduced, respectively. Increases in mean CPI/tax-adjusted stick prices varied by outlet type (p<0.001), socioeconomic status (p=0.013) and remoteness of retailer’s area (p=0.028) and whether twin packs were sold (p=0.009).
Contrary to tobacco company predictions of a fall in prices, the price of the market-leading Australian cigarette brand increased significantly in the 3 years after plain packaging was introduced, and these increases were above the combined effects of inflation and increases in excise/customs duty.