PURPOSE: To understand the tobacco acquisition practices of low-income smokers in New York State in light of high cigarette prices due to high cigarette taxes.
DESIGN: Eight focus groups with low-income smokers were conducted in spring 2015 and 2016 (n = 74).
SETTING: New York City (NYC) and Buffalo, New York.
PARTICIPANTS: Low-income adults aged 18 to 65 who smoke cigarettes regularly.
METHOD: Qualitative analysis of focus group transcripts that explored differences and similarities by region. We used the interview guide-which covered the process of acquiring cigarettes and the impact of cigarette prices-as a framework for analysis to generate themes and subthemes (deductive coding). We also generated themes and subthemes that emerged during focus group discussions (inductive coding).
RESULTS: Some smokers in Western New York have switched to untaxed cigarettes from Native American reservations, whereas low-income smokers in NYC described convenient sources of bootlegged cigarettes (packs or loosies) in their local neighborhood stores, through acquaintances, or on the street. Familiarity with the retailer was key to accessing bootlegged cigarettes from retailers.
CONCLUSIONS: Smokers in this study could access cheaper cigarettes, which discouraged quit attempts and allowed them to continue smoking. The availability of lower priced cigarettes may attenuate public health efforts aimed at reducing smoking prevalence through price and tax increases.