Empty Discarded Pack Data and the Prevalence of Illicit Trade in Cigarettes

74 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017

See all articles by Alberto Aziani

Alberto Aziani

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime

Jonathan Kulick

Marron Institute

Neill Norman

Cornerstone Research

James E. Prieger

Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy

Date Written: January 17, 2017


Illicit trade in tobacco products (ITTP) is big business in the United States and creates many harms including reduced tax revenues; damages to the economic interests of legitimate actors; funding for organized-crime and terrorist groups; negative effects of participation in illicit markets, such as violence and incarceration; and reduced effectiveness of smoking-reduction policies, leading to increased damage to health. To improve data availability for study in this area, we describe and make available a large, novel set of data from empty discarded pack (EDP) studies. In EDP studies, teams of researchers collect all cigarette packs discarded (either in trash receptacles or as litter) in the public spaces of selected neighborhoods. Packs are examined for the absence of local tax stamps, signs of non-authentic packaging or stamps, and other indications of potential tax evasion or counterfeit product. We describe the data and analyze the prevalence of ITTP. Data from 23 collections in 10 U.S. cities from 2010 to 2014 are available, yielding 106,500 observations (by far the largest dataset of its kind available for academic study). Each observation includes dozens of variables covering the brand, location to the ZIP code level, tax status, counterfeit status, and other information about the pack. There is significant evidence of tax avoidance (up to 74% of packs in New York City). In some markets there is also a significant amount of illicit trade (up to over half the market in New York City), which includes bootlegging, counterfeits, cigarettes produced for illicit-market sales, and cigarettes without any tax stamps. These data will be highly useful for research in illicit markets and organized crime.

Keywords: Black Markets, Contraband, Counterfeit Cigarettes, Excise Taxes, Garbology, Interstate Smuggling, ITTP, Smoking, State and Local Taxation, Tobacco

JEL Classification: K42, K49, I18, H26, C83,C81

Suggested Citation

Aziani, Alberto and Kulick, Jonathan and Norman, Neill and Prieger, James E., Empty Discarded Pack Data and the Prevalence of Illicit Trade in Cigarettes (January 17, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2906015 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2906015

Alberto Aziani

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime ( email )

Largo Gemelli 1
Milan, MI Milano 20123

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.transcrime.it/en/staff/alberto-aziani/

Jonathan Kulick

Marron Institute ( email )

196 Mercer St.
New York, NY 10012
United States

Neill Norman

Cornerstone Research ( email )

1000 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025-4327
United States

James E. Prieger (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
3105067150 (Phone)
3105067494 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/a/pepperdine.edu/jprieger/

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