Problems, policies and politics: A comparative case study of contraband tobacco from the 1990s to the present in the Canadian context


Contraband tobacco has been and continues to be a global public health policy concern, with special manifestations in Canada. Over the past 20 years, in two noteworthy instances the Canadian government has battled contraband – in the early 1990s, and for much of the past decade. In the 1990s, when contraband cigarettes flooded the Canadian market, the government rapidly responded, using policy measures such as implementing a tobacco export tax and cutting domestic sales tax. Unfortunately, contraband made a strong comeback in recent years, but this time the government has hesitated to act, owing to a change in the source of the contraband. Using John Kingdon's streams theory to frame our arguments, we suggest that lack of congruence between different policy stakeholder groups’ perceptions of the problem, policy solutions, and political feasibility has road-blocked the implementation of anti-contraband policy in the 2000s.

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Correspondence to Robert Schwartz.

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Canadian policy on contraband tobacco since 1990 helps elucidate why and when public health policy changes do and do not occur.

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Schwartz, R., Johnson, T. Problems, policies and politics: A comparative case study of contraband tobacco from the 1990s to the present in the Canadian context. J Public Health Pol 31, 342–354 (2010).

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  • contraband
  • tobacco
  • policy streams
  • tobacco tax