Objectives: We examined the mechanisms by which living in a disadvantaged minority community influences smoking and illegal cigarette sale and purchasing behaviors after a large cigarette tax increase.
Methods: Data were collected from 14 focus groups (n=104) that were conducted during the spring of 2003 among Blacks aged 18 years and older living in New York City.
Results: A large tax increase led to what focus group participants described as a pervasive illegal cigarette market in a low-income minority community. Perceived pro-smoking community norms, a stressful social and economic environment, and the availability of illegal cigarettes worked together to reinforce smoking and undermine cessation.
Conclusions: Although interest in quitting was high, bootleggers created an environment in which reduced-price cigarettes were easier to access than cessation services. This activity continues to undermine the public health goals of the tax increase.