Cigarette Tax Increase Bill in Illinois Revived

CHICAGO -- A 2009 Illinois Senate bill to increase the state’s cigarette tax from 98 cents a pack to $1.98 may find new life this year, with Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) pledging to reintroduce the measure if the House fails to move on it before the 96th General Assembly finishes on Jan. 12.

The Senate Bill 44 called for the $1 increase in two 50 cent installments. The bill passed the Senate; however, it stalled in the House, according to The State Journal-Register.

"A cigarette tax increase is one of the most important agenda items for the coming year," Cullerton said. "It will generate new revenue, reduce Medicaid costs attributed to smoking-related health concerns, and most importantly, it will dramatically reduce people’s desire to smoke."

Anti-smoking groups have also revived their push for the increase, citing research showing that the state coffers would see $377 million in new revenue in the first year, the newspaper reported. Kevin O’Flaherty, director of advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said a cigarette tax increase would offset the costs the state incurs because of tobacco-related disease.

"When you look at the amount of revenue that comes in from tobacco, it is a drop in the bucket compared to what the state spends on tobacco-related health care costs across the board," he said.

Illinois last raised the cigarette tax in 2002. In the intervening seven years most states have raised their cigarette taxes at least once, according to The State Journal-Register. The state currently ranks 32nd in the nation when it comes to taxing cigarettes. The $1 increase would move it to 15th, according to Frank Chaloupka, an economist with the University of Illinois.

However, not everyone is in favor of the move. State Sen. Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) was against the cigarette tax increase in 2009, according to the newspaper. "Although I’ve never been a smoker, it seems like we’re taking advantage of a group we’ve taken too much advantage of in the past," Bomke said. "I think at some point, enough is enough."

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