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Understanding Tobacco Industry Pricing, Profits, and Taxation in Low and Middle-Income Countries

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Anna Gilmore
    Dr Rob Branston
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description


Tobacco tax increases are the most effective way of reducing tobacco use and address the inequalities inherent to tobacco use, but research has found that the tobacco industry (TI) uses its pricing strategies to undermine the impacts of tobacco taxes in high income countries such as the UK. What isn’t currently known is if the TI also uses the same tactics in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), whether they are adjusted for local market conditions, and what other strategies are used in such settings in order to maintain or enhance their profitability. Similarly, little is known about tobacco industry profitability in these countries, or the accuracy of industry reporting on this issue. A PhD investigation of these issues in LMICs is therefore needed in order to develop the required knowledge and wide understanding so that such TI actions can be routinely identified, highlighted, and therefore combated in such markets. Such evidence is required to enable governments to develop appropriate tax policies and to convince governments of their ability to increase taxes without ill effect.

The successful student will conduct their research under the supervision of Prof Anna Gilmore (University of Bath), Dr Rob Branston (University of Bath) and Prof Frank Chaloupka/member of his team (external advisor at University of Illinois at Chicago). The student will be based at the University of Bath.

This PhD aims to examine tobacco industry strategies relating to pricing, profitability, and influence on tobacco tax policy in LMICs, using a mixed methods approach. It aims to both provide new evidence on TI conduct in LMICs, and to develop a global expert in tobacco industry pricing and thus to help advance effective tax policy implementation. Given the focus, it would be well suited to a candidate from an LMIC.

The exact focus of the PhD research will be determined on the appointment of the best candidate but likely directions include:
• Collecting data on tobacco pricing and industry profitability across different LMICs (e.g. where CRUK and/or Bloomberg have funded researchers working on tax policy), using both existing data and via the accumulation of new primary data;
• Analysing these data to identify how the TI is pricing its products, including exploring the extent of over- and under-shifting of tax;
• Obtaining and critically examining available data and industry reporting on its profitability and its payment of appropriate excise duties as well as corporation/profit taxes;
• Developing research tools to enable the replication of such work in other jurisdictions.
• Examining TI attempts to influence tax policy, specifically the tactics and arguments used;
• Using these findings and semi-structured expert interviews to identify the best ways to address TI conduct;
• Developing and piloting a tool for monitoring and countering TI interference in tax policy drawing upon existing knowledge of industry actions in high income countries and emerging evidence from LMICs.

It will be an interdisciplinary project combining skills in two or more of the following areas, depending on the particular focus: economics, accounting, politics, and public health.

Conflict of interest information can be found here:

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019 or 20 January 2020


First class or Upper Second class undergraduate honours degree in a suitable area. A relevant Master’s degree would be highly desirable.


Shortlisted candidates are likely to be interviewed by the end of July.

Funding Notes

The PhD project is funded by the University of Bath and CRUK, with the expectation that the project will link into their LMIC international in-country work on tobacco taxation and also the Bloomberg Philanthropies funded STOP project. The student will also work closely with the Tobacconomics team at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Health Policy Center.

Applicants will be considered for a University studentship covering Home/EU/Overseas tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 for 2019/20) for up to 3 years, full-time study.


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