The $5 man: the underground economic response to a large cigarette tax increase in New York City

Am J Public Health. 2007 Aug;97(8):1483-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.079921. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Commerce* / economics
  • Commerce* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • New York City
  • Poverty Areas
  • Public Policy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Taxes / economics
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology