Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is proposing a $1 increase on the tax of cigarette packs.
Preckwinkle said raising the tax on cigarettes would generate an increase in annual revenue of $25.6 million. It would also lead to public health benefits and save millions on health-related costs.
“Cigarettes are harmful and addictive, and for years have put people in a harmful path,” Preckwinkle said at a press conference Tuesday in an operating room at Stroger Hospital. The Chicago Tribune first reported the proposed increase last Friday.
Like gasoline, the price of cigarettes varies between the city and the suburbs. A pack costs about $11 in Cook County and about $7 in DuPage County, depending on brand. The Cook County tax on cigarettes is currently $5.67. Preckwinkle is proposing to raise it to $6.67.
This state just increased its tax on cigarettes in June to $1.98. Previously it was 98 cents.
“It’s already so expensive,” said Emily Beg, a student at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. “I’ll buy less but in no way would the tax make me quit.”
Dr. Timothy Sandborne, a cardiologist and volunteer for the American Heart Association, said that he supports Preckwinkle’s proposed tax increase.
“The best solution is to get kids to not smoke in the first place,” Sandborne said. “I think it would be a sin not to approve this increase on tax.”
Ronald “Kwesi” Harris, community activist and member of the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco, said he strongly believes that this tax will have a positive affect on the youth of the city.
“If young people don’t pick up this addiction, their quality and quantity of life has been expanded,” Harris said.
“Let’s raise the taxes for the right reasons, so that our children’s lives will be extended,” he added. “This is one of those talks we need to start having around the dinner table.”
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the proposed cigarette tax will save more than $640 million in long-term Cook County health care costs from adult and youth smoking declines.
Dr. Ram Raju, chief executive of the Cook County Health Hospitals System, said the tax will reduce the number of smoking-related illness throughout the county.
Raju said that a new case of lung cancer is diagnosed everyday, which is preventable.
“Raising the taxes on tobacco is an important public intervention,” he said. The proposed tax “will lead to decreased smoking by teens and increased quitting by those than continue to smoke.”
Michael Stevens, 54, an injection plastic salesman and smoker for 40 years, said that he doesn’t care about the tax increase because he buys his cigarettes in Indiana.
“I don’t care if they raise it $100,” Stevens said. “I don’t buy them from here.”
Lynsey Mukomel, Tatiana Walk- Morris and Jessica Lang contributed reporting.