Centre for Tax System Integrity

Research Projects and Surveys

Taxation, Regulation and the Tobacco Industry

Tobacco growing and manufacturing is a struggling industry in Australia. Over a number of years, exposure of the public health costs has lost the industry valued government support. Furthermore, the industry has been faced with stiff competition from international producers of high quality leaf, and from more efficient manufacturing plants in Asia.

While the industry struggles, the government has maintained high excise duties on the sale of the tobacco leaf, creating incentives for disillusioned farmers to avoid tax and sell their tobacco on the black market as chop-chop. Qualitative data and interviews conducted with farmers, manufacturers, and tax officers familiar with the tobacco growing regions of Mareeba and Myrtleford have provided the base for an analysis of the problems inherent in the regulation of chop-chop.

Towns that are dependent on one major industry for their livelihood and identity invariably become protective of that industry and find it difficult to imagine a future without it. The degree to which the decline of the tobacco industry adversely affected young people and created resistance to government and regulation was of interest as part of a research program looking at young people and governance.

Through a series of focus groups and a questionnaire, data were collected from high school students in one tobacco growing region to find out how the next generation regarded the tobacco industry, what was their involvement in chop-chop, and how they were responding to the visible signs of decline in the tobacco industry.

Chief Investigators

Ms Sophie Cartwright
Professor Gilbert Geis (University of California, Irvine)

Data Sets

  • Interviews with regulators, business and community representatives were conducted (2002).
  • Interviews with members of the tobacco growing community of Myrtleford, Victoria (2003-2005).
  • A survey of high school students in Myrtleford (2002).
  • Focus groups with high school students in Myrtleford (2002).

Key Publications

Geis, G., Cartwright, S. & Houston, J.
Public wealth, public health and private stealth: Australia's black market in cigarettes, Australian Journal of Social Issues 38(3) 2003: 363-378.
(pdf version)

Geis, G.
Chop-Chop: The Illegal Cigarette Market in Australia. RegNet Occasional Paper Paper No 2, Regulatory Institutions Network, Australian National University, Canberra, 2005.
(pdf version)


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