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African Cigarette Prices Project

African Cigarette Prices Project

The objective of REEP’s African Cigarette Prices (ACP) project is to collect tobacco-price data across Africa, where data are often scarce, using UCT students. These data enable researchers to estimate price differences across brands, urban/rural divides and types of packaging, and to analyse price trends. Fieldworkers visit both formal and informal retailers of tobacco products (including street vendors) in their hometowns.

The project was started in 2016 and to date there have been eight rounds of data collection, with the ninth round being finalized in 2020. During the December 2019/January 2020 university holidays, more than 60 UCT students from 13 African countries collected tobacco prices in their hometowns as part of the ACP project. The number of prices collected, and of fieldworkers contracted per round, has increased significantly since the first round in 2016. Countries where data are typically collected include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. The data are available on DataFirst.

Fieldworkers receive rigorous training in how to approach retailers and how to collect the data. Each datapoint is backed up with a photograph of the pack and the retail outlet. Prices are collected at formal retailers, informal retailers (such as spaza shops), and street vendors. After fieldworkers submit their data, the data and the back-up photographs are checked both electronically and manually to ensure that there is no fraud in the data collecting process and that the data are sound.

Although the price data collected through ACP are not nationally representative, the ACP is a very affordable and simple way to get an understanding of the range and distribution of prices and brands in various African countries. The project also creates a useful source of extra income for the students who participate as fieldworkers and provides exposure to REEP and research in the area of tobacco control. The project has led some fieldworkers to continue their research work in this area.

Fortunately, the ninth round of data collection was unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the tenth round, which was scheduled for the July 2020 holidays, has been postponed to the December 2020 holidays.