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Tackling illicit tobacco in the North of England

A major research study was undertaken to inform the development of effective social marketing campaigns and other activity as part of The North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health programme. Just over 6000 telephone and face-to-face interviews were conducted across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions. The results gave understanding of the illicit tobacco market, and segmentation analysis gave focus and direction to the development of strategies, and ultimately campaigns, to tackle the problem of illicit tobacco.

Key benefits:

  • Clear picture of the illicit tobacco market – both supply and demand
  • Profiles of buyers and sellers and market segmentation
  • Guidance on effective strategic approaches
This was the second time that we have worked with NEMS and the service was very good. We asked them to do a lot in a short time and they delivered exactly what we'd asked for.
David Wiggins, - Smoke Free North West

Our Assigment

In 2009, Smokefree North West, in association with a collection of partner organisations, commissioned NEMS to undertake a research study to inform the development of effective social marketing campaigns and other activity as part of The North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health programme.
The project had a challenging set of objectives including: profiling the people purchasing illicit tobacco products; their motivation for buying; the groups most likely to be persuaded to stop buying these products; the groups most likely to be persuaded into providing information to the authorities about selling illicit tobacco; the attitudes of non-users about the potential impact of illicit tobacco on the community, e.g. fear of crime; the awareness of and attitudes to the issues involved; the awareness of current enforcement activities and the prospect and implications of being caught; the messaging most effective in deterring smokers from buying counterfeit and smuggled products; who would be their most effective ‘messengers’ and channels; the best approach for engaging the wider community, smokers and non-smokers alike, in addressing this problem.

Results

One in five smokers purchased some form of illicit tobacco and this accounted for an estimated 9% of the total tobacco market. Prevalence of purchase of illicit tobacco was highest in the North East.
Attitudes towards illicit tobacco were used to define a comfort scale; over half of the population could be classified as very uncomfortable with the sale and purchase of illicit tobacco. Just over a quarter of respondents indicated that they would be likely to report someone they suspected of selling illicit tobacco and this likelihood increased markedly among those who were attitudinally uncomfortable.
The overall market was segmented into attitude groups and these were profiled to assist with future targeting of activity.
The research recorded a low ratio of buyers to sellers; in other words the market was being supplied by a large number of small sellers. Demographically these sellers were more likely to be young males, in manual work or unemployed.

Benefits

This latest research in 2009 met 10 objectives relating to the understanding of behaviour, attitudes, motivation and communication; not just among users of illicit tobacco, but also the wider community of smokers and non-smokers.
Understanding the structure and dynamics of any market is crucial to developing effective strategies and illicit tobacco is no exception. This research and its analysis delivered a clear understanding of buyers, their behaviour and attitudes. In conjunction with segmentation analysis to identify key groups this has given a foundation on which to develop strategies aimed at both the supply and demand aspects of the market.

Our Approach

Just over 6000 interviews were conducted across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions, using an almost equal mix of both telephone and in-street interviewing.
To provide significant subsamples of key groups (e.g. smokers and illicit tobacco buyers), the overall sample incorporated three main components: a representative of all adults; a booster sample of smokers and a specific sample of young persons (aged 14-15 years).
Interviewing was undertaken in all of the 49 Trading Standards areas making up the region. The sampling was also carefully constructed to ensure appropriate representation of both urban and rural areas.
Quota controls were applied on gender, age and smokers/non-smokers.

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NEMS Market Research Limited. Company registered in England no. 393 8078 Telephone: 01642 373355 Email: advice@nemsmr.co.uk