Blog post from the Post-Dispatch’s Political Fix

Jan. 12, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Chicago, says she plans to reintroduce a $1 tax on cigarettes this legislative session.

The proposal adds 50 cents to the price of each pack during the next two years. A report issued by the American Lung Association in Illinois estimates the tax could raise $557 million and save the state billions in long-term medical costs.

The extra dollar would bring per-pack taxes to $1.98.

Yarbrough sponsored a similar bill last year. The proposal passed through the Senate but is still stalled in the House.

The legislation would also reclassify “little cigars” as cigarettes and make the tax applicable to the slimmer version sold in packs.

The representative spoke briefly at a press conference by the lung association this morning announcing the state’s tobacco control “report card” issued by the American Lung Association.

A statewide smoking ban passed two years ago helped earn Illinois an “A” for smokefree air, but low funding for programs helping smokers quit earned the state an “F” for prevention.

Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for organization, said the tax on cigarettes would be matched by federal stimulus money and could help pay off some of the state’s bills to health care providers.

Comptroller Dan Hynes announced last week that the state owes more than $5 billion to state agencies and other service providers.

Yarbrough hasn’t filed her new bill yet, but we’ll update this post when she does. We’re also waiting on a call from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which has regularly opposed past proposals to increase cigarette taxes.