Background: Selling of single cigarettes, also known as loosies, is a public health concern. Loosies allow for those with fewer resources to buy cigarettes without having to purchase a pack. Selling of loosies may cue smoking behaviors. In the US, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations have high rates of smoking and illicit drug use and the selling of loosies appears to be linked to the urban informal economy. We examined the proportion and frequency of cigarette selling and roles in the informal economy associated with selling loosies among a sample of urban drug users.
Methods: There were 801 participants, recruited by community outreach, assessed at baseline, who were enrolled in an HIV prevention intervention for drug users.
Results: Most (89%) smoked cigarettes in the prior 30 days, of whom 92% smoked daily. Self-reported selling of cigarettes was common with 58% reporting that they had sold cigarettes within the last six months; 20.4% reported selling cigarettes a few times a week and 7.4% reported daily selling of cigarettes. In a stepwise regression model, four sources of income were associated with frequent cigarette selling: providing street security (OR=2.214, 95% CI 1.177-4.164), selling food stamps (OR=1.461, 95% CI 1.003-2.126), pawning items (OR=2.15, 95% CI 1.475-3.135), and selling drugs (OR=1.634, 95% CI 1.008-2.648).
Conclusion: There is a high rate of selling loosies among urban substance users. The wide availability of loosies may promote smoking. Smoking cessation programs with drug treatment and economic development programs may help to reduce economic pressures to sell loosies.
Keywords: Cigarette selling; Crack cocaine; Informal economy; Loosies; Opiates; Urban health.
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