Cigarette Tax Goes up, Area Smokers not Happy

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Published on June 24 2012 8:42 am
Written by Wayne Moran

The cigarette tax in Illinois increased statewide on Sunday by $1 per pack. The tax jumped from 98-cents to a dollar-98-cents.

Health officials say the additional state revenue will help offset Medicaid cuts and may discourage some younger people from taking up smoking. Many smokers say they'll be forced to cut back or buy cigarettes out of state. Some also say they may quit smoking altogether.

Parts of the state saw shortages at retail locations as smokers tried to stock up before the tax went into effect Sunday. Some retailers also placed limits on how many packs or cartons could be purchased, to stave off a shortage of product ahead of the increase. Many retailers across the state are concerned it will have a negative effect on "additional sales", where smokers buy more than just cigarettes.

We spoke with a number of area retail locations that sell cigarettes, and across the board, reaction to the tax increase has been negative. "Grouchy, not nice, almost like they're blaming me", was what one Jumpin' Jimmy's clerk told us Sunday morning. That feeling was much the same at the Mach 1 Food Shop near Lake Sara, where the clerk we spoke with said, "They all say they're going to quit when the price goes up, but that never happens". Customers there were grumbling about the increase, but most said they knew it was coming.

One station we spoke with on Fayette Avenue in Effingham said she's had numerous younger customers that had no idea the increase was coming, and some left upset after not having enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes. She said "one guy was yelling at me that he'd go somewhere else. I tried to tell him it was everywhere, but he didn't get it. He said we're just trying to make money off poor people".

Governor Quinn has said the tax hike is necessary to save Medicaid, and stave off deeper cuts to the state's health care program for the poor.