Tob Control 22:138-140 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050412
  • Brief report

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

  1. Douglas E Thompkins3
  1. 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fordham University, Bronx, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, USA
  3. 3Department of Sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Klaus von Lampe, Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 899 Tenth Avenue #422, New York, NY 10019, USA; kvlampe{at}
  1. Contributors This study was designed by MKK and KVL. MKK collected the data. KVL, MKK and DET analysed the data and wrote the article.

  • Received 29 December 2011
  • Accepted 27 June 2012
  • Published Online First 4 August 2012


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.


  • Funding Funding was provided by John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Graduate Research Scholarship.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY, USA.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Free sample

This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of Tobacco Control.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

This insightful video is produced by Cancer Research UK

Navigate This Article