Collecting cigarette price data on a limited budget
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University of Cape Town, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), Economics of Tobacco Control Project (ETCP), South Africa
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A134
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Data forms the backbone of any scientific research project. In many countries the statistical authorities collect information on cigarette prices but often the coverage of this data is restricted to large metropolitan areas or these databases are not made available. The Economics of Tobacco Control Project at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has used foreign based students to collect cigarette price data in a number of African countries on a very limited budget.

Students are recruited at UCT and are trained in data collection techniques and etiquette. When they return to their home countries on holiday they collect cigarette price data (packs and single sticks) from both formal and informal retail outlets. The quality of the information is verified as fieldworkers are required to take photographs of the cigarettes with their mobile phones. Students are paid on a piecework basis.

Cigarette price data have been collected in Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and rural areas of South Africa in three waves [January 2016 (n=1025), July 2016 (n=9301) and January 2017 (n=10185)], with more waves planned for 2017 and 2018. The data allows one to investigate inter- and intra-country differences, and pack/single stick differences in prices. Besides the data that is generated, this data collection method makes students aware of the economics of tobacco control and attracts them to do further research in this area.

Using students as fieldworkers for collecting price data in their home towns and countries is an efficient and cost-effective way of collecting price data. This method also generates interest about tobacco control issues among students. This approach can easily be applied in countries with limited resources to perform pricing surveys.