The American Lung Association ranked Illinois 32nd in the nation for anti-smoking laws. The Association gave the state a D for its cigarette tax of 98 cents per pack. Spokeswoman Katie Lorenz says a $2 tax would be better, if fewer smokers could mean more money for the state.
“If somebody through Medicare or Medicaid or state employees … we pay for their healthcare costs. Taxpayers do. When we encourage them to stop smoking and we’re not having to cover those illnesses, those diseases that are caused by tobacco use, taxpayers are going to see a return on that investment,” Lorenz says.
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Illinois has the 20th lowest cigarette tax, but Missouri’s tax is one fifth of Illinois’ and Kentucky’s is 38 cents less. Iowa’s is higher at $1.36 per pack, and Indiana’s is roughly the same. Wisconsin’s cigarette tax ranks among the highest in the Midwest and seventh in the nation at $2.52 per pack.
Jim Tobin of National Taxpayers United of Illinois says the taxes are high enough and they do little to discourage smoking. “It just drives businesses out and of course it encourages people to roll their own cigarettes and do things like that avoid or evade paying the legal cigarette tax hike,” Tobin says.
Tobin says cigarette taxes inordinately affect the poor because they are normally the ones smoking. “It’s a regressive tax and it hits the lower-middle class and poor more than the rich, who can afford more expensive recreational drugs, legal or illegal.”
Lorenz says that’s OK because low-income smokers would save money if they quit smoking.