January 5, 2011 - Anti-smoking groups renewed their push for a $1-a-pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax on Monday, January 3rd pointing to research showing that the state would see $377 million in new revenue the first year of the tax increase.
Illinois spends $5 billion a year to treat diseases caused by tobacco use, according to a study by Frank Chaloupka, an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The state received roughly $560 million in cigarette tax revenue in fiscal year 2010.Senate Bill 44, which would increase the state’s cigarette tax from 98 cents to $1.98 a pack in two 50-cent stages, passed the Senate in 2009, but has been stalled in the House ever since. In a statement, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, threw his support behind the tax and pledged to introduce it again in the Senate if it fails to pass the House before the 96th General Assembly completes its work on Jan. 12.
Back in April 2010 a poll released by the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco found that voters statewide supported raising the cigarette tax by $1 – from 98 cents per pack to $1.98. Of the 502 people who were surveyed, 74 percent supported the increase. That total included 71 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents. Even 42 percent of smokers said they support a cigarette tax increase, the survey found. (Public supports cigarette tax hike, smokersinfo.net, 4/17/2010)
“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.”
Kevin O’Flaherty, director of advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said a cigarette tax increase would offset the costs to the state 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. The state could double the money it would receive if it used the revenue for its health care provider relief fund and access matching funds from the federal government, O’Flaherty said. “That’s money on the table that’s being left behind,” he said.
Since 2002, the last time Illinois raised its cigarette tax, most states have raised their cigarette taxes at least once, Chaloupka said. Illinois is now 32nd in the nation in taxing cigarettes. If the state increased its tax to $1.98, it would rank 15th.
Raising the tax would increase revenue to the state, cause adults to quit smoking and children to never start, Chaloupka said. “Every time that states raise their cigarette tax, we see significant increases in the revenues that are generated from those taxes,” he said.
WHY NOT?? Asked why his group and other anti-smoking organizations don’t just seek to ban cigarettes, O’Flaherty said, “I don’t think any of our organizations want to see that tobacco just doesn’t exist. But what is very important to all of us … is that tobacco is no longer the serious public health problem that it is today. “In order to get to that point, we have to go quite a bit further … that the price for the product comes close to reflecting the true cost of the use of the product in our country.”
State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, opposed the cigarette tax increase when it passed the Senate. “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. “I realize it’s by choice to smoke cigarettes, but some people have an addiction and a difficult time getting off them.”
Reference: New push starts for cigarette tax increase by CHRIS WETTERICH, THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, mysuburbanlife.com, 1/3/2011.
Cigarette taxes in border states:
Iowa $1.36 per pack
Missouri 17 cents
Indiana 99.5 cents
Kentucky 60 cents