Aims To describe current and recent changes in cigarette affordability across the current 27 European Union (EU) Member States, and to assess the impact of these changes on smoking prevalence in countries that were EU members in 2004 (old Member States) compared to countries that have joined since 2004 (new Member States).
Design Investigation of cigarette affordability using the minutes of labour measure, and comparisons of changes in affordability, tax and smoking prevalence in old and new EU Member States.
Participants Current 27 EU Member States.
Settings European Union.
Measurements Cigarette prices, overall tax yield and incidence, hourly wages and smoking prevalence in the EU were obtained from published sources, and the affordability of the EU Most Popular Price Category (MPPC) cigarettes estimated as the number of minutes of labour required to earn the price of 20 cigarettes in the years 2003, 2006 and 2009.
Findings The mean [standard deviation (SD)] number of minutes of labour required to purchase 20 MPPC cigarettes in EU Member States in 2009 was 31.3 (SD 10.7), but ranged fourfold across the EU, and was significantly higher in new than old Member States. The number of minutes of labour measure increased more, although not significantly so, between 2003 and 2009 in new [mean (SD) 12.1 (10.9)] than in old [6.7 (4.0)] Member States, largely because of proportionately higher increases in taxation. However, there was no correlation between change in affordability and change in smoking prevalence in recent years.
Conclusions Cigarette affordability varies substantially and cigarettes are generally becoming less affordable in European Union Member States. However, these reductions in affordability do not appear to have impacted substantially on smoking prevalence in recent years.