Supporters still short on cigarette tax increase

Staff reports

With the spring legislative session winding down, a bill that would raise the state's tobacco tax still lacks the support needed for approval.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said Senate Bill 44 is "a handful of votes short." The measure would raise the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, from 98 cents a pack to $1.98 cents a pack.

"I'm hopeful that at the end of the day, our colleagues will join us who are here ... to get the job done," she said at a Statehouse news conference today to encourage women to quit smoking.

Currie said lawmakers should approve the measure to "do an adequate job of funding the budget." The tax would raise nearly $300 million annually. Lawmakers along state borders argue that higher tobacco taxes would drive smokers to buy products in neighboring states with cheaper taxes.

Kathy Drea, public policy director of the American Lung Association of Illinois, said higher cigarette taxes helps curb smoking among young people and helps smokers quit. 

State Capitol Bureau