A paper titled “Presence of Counterfeit Marlboro Gold Packs in Licensed Retail Stores in New York City: Evidence from Test Purchases”, by Dr. Diana Silver, associate professor of public health policy and management at New York University College of Global Public Health, has just been published in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
This is the first study to independently measure the availability of counterfeit cigarette packs purchased at full price from licensed retailers in New York City. Researchers found that none of the Marlboro Gold packs purchased from licensed cigarette retailers were counterfeit.
The illegal cigarette market in New York City is largely defined by cigarettes that are bootlegged from out of state and resold on the streets, via social networks and licensed cigarette retailers. In 2014, Dr. Silver et al., found that approximately 15 percent of cigarette packs purchased from licensed cigarette retailers at full price in New York City bore illegal tax stamps, most of which were genuine out-of-state stamps while some were counterfeit tax stamps. More recent research conducted in 2016 suggests that the packaging design (eg, print, logo embossing) and materials (eg, inner frame, outer frame, and foil) can provide clues irrespective of the tax stamp to specifically identify counterfeit packs. In addition to the substantial, known risks to health posed by smoking cigarettes manufactured by tobacco companies, smoking counterfeit cigarettes may pose additional risks due to higher concentrations of trace elements such as lead and cadmium. This article answers the call to a recent Institute of Medicine report on the need for more data regarding the size of the illicit market (whether bootlegged or counterfeit) and purchasing pathways by measuring the availability of counterfeit cigarette packs (identified by their packaging rather than tax stamps) in licensed cigarette retailers in New York City.