Purchasing patterns and smoking behaviors after a large tobacco tax increase: A study of Chinese Americans living in New York City

Jennifer Cantrell, Dorothy Hung, Marianne C. Fahs, Donna Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. Tobacco taxes are one of the most effective policy interventions to reduce tobacco use. Tax avoidance, however, lessens the public health benefits of higher-priced cigarettes. Few studies examine responses to cigarette tax policies, particularly among high-risk minority populations. This study examined the prevalence and correlates of tax avoidance and changes in smoking behaviors among Chinese American smokers in New York City after a large tax increase. Methods. We conducted a cross-sectional study with data for 614 male smokers from in-person and telephone interviews using a comprehensive householdbased survey of 2,537 adults aged 18-74 years. Interviews were conducted in multiple Chinese dialects. Results. A total of 54.7% of respondents reported engaging in at least one low- or no-tax strategy after the New York City and New York State tax increases. The more common strategies for tax avoidance were purchasing cigarettes from a private supplier/importer and purchasing duty free/overseas. Higher consumption, younger age, and number of years in the U.S. were consistently associated with engaging in tax avoidance. Younger and heavier continuing smokers were less likely to make a change in smoking behavior in response to the tax increase. Despite high levels of tax avoidance and varying prices, nearly half of continuing smokers made a positive change in smoking behavior after the tax increase. Conclusions. Expanded legislation and enforcement must be directed toward minimizing the availability of legal and illegal low- or no-tax cigarette outlets. Public education and cessation assistance customized for the Chinese American community is key to maximizing the effectiveness of tobacco tax policies in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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