Chicago smokes go up with federal tax hike

Will price hike help smokers who want to kick the habit?
April 1, 2009 4:25:23 PM PDT
No April Fools joke. That pack of cigarettes is going to cost $9.A new federal cigarette tax went into effect on April 1. The price for a pack of smokes climbed 62-cents. Chewing tobacco is up more than 30-cents.

In Illinois, state lawmakers are considering an additional $1 tax, which would make Chicago one of the most expensive cities in the country when it comes to buying tobacco products.

"A lot of people are going to Indiana, trunk loads full of it and coming back and selling cigarettes here for 50 cents a cigarette," said Mike Leonard, smoker.

During cigarette breaks on Wednesday, some smokers said they are going to be forced to cut back on their smoking because of the new federal tax hike.

"I think it's terrible. Along with all the other taxes that are out there, I think that it's really going to drive a lot of people out of the city and out of the county," said John Sims.

"I don't appreciate it, period. Everything's going up. It's hurting me," said Eric Jackson

Harold Wimmer president and CEO of the American Lung Association said the new tax hike on tobacco can only help with their campaign against smoking.

"It is a win-win for both the smoker and for the advocates who are trying to help individuals who want to quit smoking. Because it is proven that when the price of cigarettes go up that there's a decrease in the consumption of tobacco products," said Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association.

Wimmer says that normally the Illinois tobacco quit hotline receives around 300 calls a day.

"Today's call volume, I just checked the number, we're at about 400 to 450 calls. So our calls are really going up there in volume," said Wimmer.

"It's more than a hotline. It's a full cessation program done over the phone. We can set up appointments where we will call a client and set up a plan that's really personalized for them," said Sherrill Keefe, Illinois Tobacco Quitline.

Cigar smokers are still lighting up at the Up Down Cigar Store in Oldtown.

"It's terrible. It's going to put a lot of these guys out of business if it goes through," said Tim Farrell, cigar smoker.

A pack of cigarettes will now go for between $8 and 9 a pack. An imported pack of cigarettes can cost $16. The Up Down cigar store said their tobacco price doubled from over $50 a pound to $100 a pound.

"It's like really outrageous. Ridiculous to have to beat the smokers to death to get money out of them," said Diana Silvius, Up Down Cigar.

The American Lung Association believes the tax revenue in Illinois will decrease because of the reduced consumption of tobacco products. Taxpayers have to bear close to $8 billion a year in costs due to smoking related diseases.


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