The tobacco industry (TI) can act to undermine the impact of tobacco tax increases by adopting various pricing strategies. Little is known about strategies used across the European Union (EU), except for the UK.
To examine pricing strategies adopted by the TI in the EU, and whether they differ by cigarette price segment, or between manufactured and roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes.
This is a longitudinal analysis of commercial pricing data for manufactured and RYO cigarettes from 23 EU countries in 2006–2017. Price and revenue trends were explored. Linear regression estimated the average annual change in revenue, and linear fixed-effects panel regression models were used to explore the association between changes in median revenue (net of tax and adjusted for inflation) and tax increases in different price segments of manufactured cigarettes.
Over the 11-year period price gaps were observed in all countries. The average annual adjusted median net revenue per pack increased in 19 of 23 countries for manufactured and RYO cigarettes. A tax increase was associated with a significant decrease of –0.09 in adjusted median net revenue per pack (95% CI –0.16 to –0.03) in the cheap cigarette price segment, while no change was detected in the expensive cigarette price segment (–0.05, 95% CI –0.11 to 0.01).
Across the EU, pricing strategies adopted by the TI maintained or increased price gaps and retained cheaper tobacco products in the market, diminishing the impact of tobacco tax increases. Further strengthening of tobacco taxation policy is needed to maximise public health impact.