“I Wouldn’t Take My Chances on the Street” — Navigating Illegal Cigarette Purchases in the South Bronx

Jun 6, 2016

From: Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency

Klaus von Lampe1⇑, Marin Kurti2, Jacqueline Johnson3, Andres F. Rengifo2


Objectives: This article examines the decision-making of consumers of illegal goods and services, using the illegal cigarette market in the South Bronx as a case study.

Methods: Sixty-seven adult smokers residing in the South Bronx (New York City) were purposively recruited and placed into 13 focus groups stratified by gender and age to discuss their purchasing patterns of cigarettes.

Results: Our participants routinely buy and consume illicit cigarettes. They prefer to purchase these illicit cigarettes in legitimate stores rather than from street vendors. In their decision-making, our participants are guided by various concerns, including reliable access to illicit cigarettes, minimal exposure to the police, the ability to purchase cigarettes on credit, reduced risk of being sold low-quality cigarettes (i.e., stale, counterfeit), and the chance to successfully complain in case of poor product quality.

Conclusions: Consumers make rational decisions to purchase illicit cigarettes within the constraints they face as a result of their socioeconomic position. They base their decisions on a set of factors of which the lowest retail price is not a primary concern

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