Cook County cigarette tax increase goes into effect Friday

February 28, 2013 (CHICAGO)

It means smokers will be paying more than $12 a pack and there are concerns about the impact the tax will have on the underground cigarette market.

Many people who cannot afford cigarettes are still smoking. Underground sellers are more than ready to meet the market when the price increases again.

"The cigarette tax increase is good public policy," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

As Preckwinkle explained why she thought another dollar per pack tax on cigarettes was a good thing, the "loosey" dealers outside a West Side convenience store agreed, the tax hike is good for business.

"They don't never buy one," loose cigarette dealer Mr. Clean said. "They buy two which is a dollar."

"We not selling rocks and blows. We not robbing, we not raping, we not killing," a young male loose cigarette dealer said.

Preckwinkle expects the additional tax to raise the cash-strapped county over $25 million and discourage cigarette smoking.

She admitted that the tax might further enable the tobacco underground.

"There's no way that government can prevent illicit activity but we can try to create laws that will promote public health, this is one," Preckwinkle said.

Meanwhile, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said less expensive cigarettes, made in China and branded packaging complete with an Illinois stamp, are flooding low-income neighborhoods.

"It burns faster and it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth," smoker Jesse Hopkins said.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office seized alleged bogus cigarettes from China that arrived here in branded packaging complete with an Illinois stamp.

Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.