The not-so-bright side of recent tobacco control policies in Spain: A cautionary tale.
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Polytechnic University of Cartagena, Spain
University of Cape Town, South Africa
Bath University, United Kingdom
Publication date: 2023-04-25
Corresponding author
Ángel López Nicolás   

Polytechnic University of Cartagena, Spain
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2023;9(Supplement):A6
Despite remarkable advances in tobacco control policies, Spain has slid back in the Tobacco Control Scale due to its poor recent record in tax policies. This shortcoming is also reflected in the evolution of the Tobacco Tax Scorecard since 2014 (3.9 points out of 5) to the latest available score of 2018 (2.625). The objectives of this research were to provide a detailed analysis of the causes behind this deterioration in the tobacco tax stance of Spain with a view to identifying the key measures that could reverse the situation.

Material and Methods:
We analyzed data on tobacco market outcomes and on tax structure and rates for manufactured cigarettes and fine cut tobacco for the period 2014-2022 and obtained measures of affordability, retail price gaps across products, and retail price differentials with bordering countries.

The average inflation-adjusted price of cigarettes and fine cut tobacco decreased by 3.5% which, coupled with the gains in real income per capita over the period, led to both these products becoming 13% more affordable. Their prices maintained a constant difference of 2 € per 20 sticks over the period. The price gaps with respect to the more expensive French market increased by 2.7 € per 20 sticks for both products. The main factor behind these outcomes is the erosion of the inflation adjusted value of the minimum excise duties levied on these products, which decreased by 12.6%.

Over the last 8 years, the two main combustible tobacco products of the Spanish market have become more affordable, have not reduced their price difference, and have become much cheaper than they were with respect to their French counterparts. These are undesirable outcomes for public health which are explained mostly by the erosion of the real value of minimum excise duties. The current European Union legislation on tobacco taxes leaves ample margin for increases in the minimum excise duties applicable to these products. These results suggest that a substantial increase is long overdue in the case of Spain. Moreover, the revision of the European Union Tobacco Tax Directive should include automatic adjustments for inflation to minimum excise duties to avoid similar situations in the future.