Some lawmakers at the statehouse want to increase taxes on cigarettes to nearly $3 a pack, but a group of convenience store owners said the plan might not work as intended.
Illinois adds a $1.98-tax to each pack of cigarettes. Senate President John Cullerton said he’ll file legislation to increase the tax by a dollar, making it $2.98 a pack.
“The governor’s proposal in cigarette taxes is pretty modest,” Cullerton said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed increasing cigarette taxes by 32 cents. His administration has said that would provide $55 million in new revenue.
“We have tripled his initial request because we know from this research that we can actually affect behavior,” Cullerton said.
Bill Fleischli with the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores said behavior will be changed if the tax is increased. He said it will encourage people to shop for cigarettes and other things outside of Illinois.
“They’ll buy everything they need, they’ll make a one-stop-shop,” Fleischli said of shoppers going to other states for goods. “They’ll buy their groceries, they’ll maybe take their dry cleaning. All of those things people do on a Saturday, they will do it, and you’ll find volumes drop in the state of Illinois.”
Cullerton said he wants Illinois to be a leader and to have other states follow suit by raising their taxes.
Supporters of increasing the tax have said it will bring in more revenue for the state while encouraging people to quit smoking. To those who question that logic, Cullerton said the state will save much more than it loses in the long run by not having to cover the cost of smoking-related health problems.
There’s also an effort to hike the tax on e-cigarettes.
Smoke-Free Alternative Coalition of Illinois President Victoria Vasconcellos said it’s not fair to lump e-cigarettes, which she called harm-reduction products, in with other legacy tobacco products.
“So cigarettes kill you, vaping products help you quit smoking,” Vasconcellos said. “It doesn’t make any sense to tax someone looking for a healthier alternative.”
American Lung Association Vice President of Advocacy Kathy Drea said e-cigarettes and other vaping products haven’t been classified as smoking-cessation products.
“E-cigarettes have never applied to become a cessation product,” she said. “They should do that. If they want to call themselves a cessation product, they should go through the certification from the FDA.”
Now, e-cigarettes are taxed at the state sales tax rate of 6.25 percent. Pritzker proposed increasing that by 36 percent. He said it would bring in $10 million in additional revenue for the state. Cullerton wants a wholesale tax of 64 percent on e-cigarettes.