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IL Plans Cigarette Tax Increase

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At a time when the state is struggling with a major budget crisis, state lawmakers may turn to smokers to raise money.

The plan calls for a one dollar per pack increase in the state cigarette tax. But Bud Kelley, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, says a higher tax simply will convince smokers to buy cigarettes in other states.

KELLY: You know, Kentucky, they’re 30 cents a pack. We’d be two dollars a pack. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out all those people in southern Illinois will drive over to Kentucky and buy them.

Kelley says if the tax hike is approved, all five neighboring states would have much lower cigarette taxes.

But the sponsor, Evanston Democratic Senator Jeff Schoenberg says the tax also would drive some smokers to quit and help the state save money on healthcare.

SCHOENBERG: The tobacco industry and others who have opposed our efforts in the past conveniently ignore the overwhelming costs to our healthcare system of tobacco-related illness.

Supporters predict the proposal would generate 300 million new tax dollars for Illinois in the first year.

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