Non-compliant packaging and illicit smokeless tobacco in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan: findings of a pack analysis

S. M. Abdullah, Rumana Huque, Kamran Siddiqi, Mona Kanaan, Samina Huque, Safat Ullah, Suneela Garg, Mongjam Meghachandra Singh, Chetana Deshmukh, Amod L. Borle, Romaina Iqbal, Laraib Mazhar, Mark Parascandola, Ravi Mehrotra, Ray Croucher, Zohaib Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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INTRODUCTION: Illicit smokeless tobacco (ST) trade has seldom been documented despite ST use in at least 127 countries across the world. Based on non-compliance with packaging regulations, we report the proportion of illicit ST products from samples on sale in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan where 85% of global ST users reside. METHODS: We purchased unique ST products from tobacco sellers in two purposively selected administrative areas (division/district) in each of the three countries. The criteria to determine illicit ST products were based on country-specific legal requirements for ST packaging and labelling. These requirements included: 'market retail price disclosure', 'sale statement disclosure', 'pictorial health warning (PHW) pertinence', 'appropriate textual health warning' and 'using misleading descriptors (MDs)'. Non-compliance with even one of the legal requirements was considered to render the ST product illicit. RESULTS: Almost all ST products bought in Bangladesh and India were non-compliant with the local packaging requirements and hence potentially illicit, all products in Pakistan lacked desirable features. The most common feature missing was health warnings: 84% packs in Bangladesh, 93% in India, and 100% in Pakistan either did not have PHW or their sizes were too small. In Bangladesh, 61% packs carried MDs. In India and Pakistan, the proportions of such packs were 32% and 42%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Weak and poorly enforced ST control policies may be slowing the progress of tobacco control in South Asia. Standardised regulations are required for packaging and labelling ST. Improving compliance and reducing sale of cheap illicit products may require business licensing and market surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-340
Number of pages8
JournalTobacco Control
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2024


  • illegal tobacco products
  • low/middle income country
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • packaging and Labelling
  • surveillance and monitoring


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