Senate President Joins Health Advocates to Announce Bill to Increase Tobacco Taxes

May 7, 2019

Today, Senate President John Cullerton joined health advocates from organizations across the state to announce new legislation that would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The bill includes a $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes sold in Illinois, which would bring the statewide tax up to $2.98 per pack. To parallel that new amount, the legislation also increases taxes on other tobacco products, like cigars and smokeless tobacco, to 64% of the wholesale price.

“It’s rare that you can sponsor legislation and know that it will save lives. That’s exactly what this will do,” Cullerton said. “It will stop children from starting to smoke and cause many adult smokers to quit, sparing them from a lifetime of addiction and associated health problems. That’s why the public supports it.”

In addition to the legislation, advocates released poll results that indicated broad support for an increase in tobacco taxes. Approximately 66% were in favor of the $1-per-pack increase on cigarettes, and 75% were in favor of taxing other tobacco products, like cigars and smokeless tobacco, at the same rate as cigarettes. The poll was conducted by Fako Research and Strategies between April 27 and May 2, 2019.

Attending advocates expressed gratitude and enthusiasm for the new legislation. They included Dr. Douglas Carlson of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Shana Crews, Illinois government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association; Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health; Tom Hughes, executive director for the Illinois Public Health Association; Matt Maloney, director of health policy for Respiratory Health Association; Julie Mirostaw, government relations director for the American Heart Association; and A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.

“Regular and significant tobacco tax increases are part of an effective, comprehensive tobacco control plan,” the group said in a statement. “Investing this tax revenue into the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs is crucial to preventing kids from starting to use tobacco and helping people already addicted to quit. We’re thankful for President Cullerton’s leadership on this issue and look forward to helping it become law.”

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Illinois. Increasing the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack is expected to prevent 28,700 Illinois kids under 18 from becoming adults who smoke and help 48,700 Illinois adults who currently smoke quit. It’s also anticipated to reduce the state’s long-term health care costs by $1.56 billion.

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