Introduction: Article 6 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control commits Parties to use tax and price policies to reduce tobacco use, whereas Article 15 commits Parties to implement measures to eliminate the illicit trade in tobacco products. This paper identifies research gaps/needs, especially in low- and middle-income countries, which, if adequately addressed, would help in implementing Articles 6 and 15.
Methods: Based on a recent comprehensive review on the impact of tax and price on tobacco consumption and a summary of reviews and narratives about the illicit tobacco market, research gaps are identified.
Results: Countries have highly diverse research needs, depending on the stage of the tobacco epidemic, previous research and data availability, and making a ranking of research needs infeasible. Broad issues for further research are the following: (1) monitoring tobacco consumption, prices, and taxes, (2) assessing the effectiveness of the tax structure in generating revenue and reducing tobacco use, (3) strengthening the tax administration system in order to reduce tax evasion and tax avoidance, (4) improving our understanding of the political economy of tobacco tax policy, and (5) employing a multidisciplinary approach to assessing the magnitude of illicit tobacco trade.
Conclusions: At a technical level, the case for increasing excise taxes to improve public health and increase government revenue is easily made, but the political and policy environment is often not supportive. In order to effectively impact policy, the required approach would typically make use of rigorous economic techniques, and be cognizant of the political economy of raising excise taxes.