The illegal cigarette market in a socioeconomically deprived inner-city area: the case of the South Bronx

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Abstract

Objective

To determine the scope of the cigarette black market in a socioeconomically deprived inner-city area in the US, taking the South Bronx in New York City as a case study.

Design

The South Bronx Litter Pack Survey collected discarded cigarette packs (n=497) along 30 randomised census tracts to quantify the prevalence of counterfeit, legal and out-of-state tax stamps.

Results

It was found that 76.2% of cigarette packs collected avoided the combined New York City and State tax. More specifically, 57.9% were untaxed (counterfeit or bearing no tax stamp), for 15.8% taxes were paid outside of New York City (including other states and New York State only). Only 19.4% of tax stamps collected indicated that New York City and New York State taxes were paid. 4.4% of the cigarette packs could not be analysed because the tax stamps were not discernible. The finding that the majority of cigarettes did not have a tax stamp or bore a counterfeit tax stamp suggests that these cigarettes were being bootlegged, most likely from Native American Reservations.

Conclusions

The present study highlights the importance of examining the illegal cigarette market in socioeconomically deprived regions of the US, where tax avoidance and black market activities appear to far exceed levels found elsewhere in the country including Chicago and New York City at large.

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