The intended and unintended consequences of a legal measure to cut the flow of illegal cigarettes into New York City: the case of the South Bronx

Am J Public Health. 2015 Apr;105(4):750-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302340. Epub 2015 Feb 25.


Objectives: We examined the impact of a change in New York tax law on the numbers of untaxed cigarettes bootlegged from Native American reservations and resold in the South Bronx.

Methods: Discarded cigarette packs were systematically collected in 30 randomized South Bronx census tracks before and after the amended tax law went into effect in 2011. Also, administrative data were gathered on the number of taxed cigarettes sold in New York State, including sales to Native American reservations.

Results: Before the tax amendment, 42% of discarded cigarette packs collected in the South Bronx had no tax stamp. After the tax law went into effect, the percentage of cigarette packs without tax stamps declined to 6.2%. Simultaneously, the percentage of packs with out-of-state tax stamps rose from 18.3% to 66.3%. The percentage of packs with a combined New York State and New York City tax stamp did not change after the tax amendment.

Conclusions: After the tax amendment, the supply of contraband cigarettes appears to have quickly shifted from one lower-priced jurisdiction to another without a change in the overall prevalence of contraband cigarettes.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Taxes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data*