Introduction: The importance of tobacco tax structure in determining the relative prices of different tobacco products and brands has become increasingly recognized. The structuring of tobacco tax across products and brands within a country can impact the variability of prices within a country, shaping consumption and influencing tobacco users' incentives to switch down to cheaper alternatives in response to tax and price increases.
Methods: Brand-specific data on the average prices paid for the top 5 cigarette brands in 13 countries were obtained from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, and for the United States, data were obtained from the National Adult Tobacco Survey. The variability of cigarette prices paid across brands was analyzed in the context of each country's tobacco tax structure.
Results: Countries with simpler cigarette tax structures, particularly those that emphasize specific taxes and do not involve tier-based taxes, exhibit less variability in the prices smokers pay for cigarettes across brands.
Conclusions: Increases in cigarette taxes in countries with simpler tax structures will be more effective in reducing cigarette smoking and its health and economic consequences than comparable tax increases in countries where tax structures are more complicated and there are greater opportunities for switching to cheaper brands in order to avoid a tax increase.