Cancer Advocates to Lawmakers: Increase Tobacco Tax, Create More Choices for Patients

May 1, 2019

Today, dozens of cancer survivors, caregivers and their families from across the state gathered in Springfield to urge the General Assembly to increase the state’s tobacco taxes and create more choices for patients. The visit was part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s annual Day at the Capitol.

In meetings with lawmakers, advocates highlighted the importance of a $1-per-pack increase in Illinois’ cigarette tax. Every year, more than 18,000 deaths in Illinois are caused by smoking, and 4,800 kids under age 18 become new daily smokers. Regular, significant tobacco tax increases have been proven to help adults quit smoking and prevent young people from ever becoming addicted.

“This is a win-win solution for Illinois’ physical and fiscal health,” said Shana Crews, Illinois government relations director for ACS CAN. “Not only would a $1 per pack cigarette tax increase prevent 28,700 Illinois youth from becoming adults who smoke and help 48,700 adults who smoke quit, but it’s also expected to generate more than $159 million in new annual revenue. That’s money that could be put toward public health programs and help Illinois pay down its high deficit.”

Volunteers also asked lawmakers to sponsor a bill currently before the General Assembly that would create more health plan choices for cancer patients. As more plans have shifted to requiring patients to pay coinsurance – a predetermined percentage of their health bill – the legislation would require insurers to offer some plans with flat-dollar copays to pay for prescription drugs. The goal is to help cancer patients access their medications and empower them to plan for future treatment.

“It’s difficult to estimate health care costs when you have no idea what your future bills will look like,” Crews said. “Copays take away some of that guess work by setting an amount that cancer patients are expected to pay for their medication. That removes a layer of anxiety, so that patients can better focus on beating cancer.”

This year, more than 68,000 Illinoisans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, and 24,410 will die of the disease. ACS CAN said lawmakers play a critical role in passing cancer-fighting public policies to help more patients survive and thrive beyond their disease.


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

Tracy Lytwyn
Sr. Manager, Regional Media Advocacy