A court order is keeping the state from rationing cigarette tax stamps to distributors. Smokers are buying more cigarettes in anticipation of the $1 a pack tax hike, which takes effect June 24.

But the state was withholding tax stamps from distributors, meaning some stores started running out of cigarettes.

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Distributors are buying more tax stamps now, and that equals less money for the state after the tax hike, says Bill Fleishli of the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores. However, he didn’t say if that was the motive for the state to restrict the sale of tax stamps.

It’s a double standard, Fleishli says. “If we did the same thing with gasoline, if we shut down some pumps because the price was going to go up to make more money, it would be against the law,” Fleishli says. “You can’t do those things. Ultimately that’s what the Department of Revenue was doing.”

Fleishli says the cigarette shortages kept some customers from coming back. “They were running short of product and their customers were not being very pleased that they couldn’t buy an extra carton of cigarettes before the price became effective,” Fleishli says

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