Cook County cigarette tax proposal may add $1 per pack


Aditya Raikar/The Daily Northwestern

McCormick freshman Nikhil Pai smokes a cigarette in the sorority quad. Cook County is considering a tax increase on cigarettes that would cause the price of a pack to rise by $1.

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

Evanston smokers may start paying $1 extra for a pack of cigarettes if a new proposal from the Cook County board president passes.

Members of the Illinois General Assembly agreed to the proposal, which taxes cigarettes at $1.98 a pack. That amount is 98 cents more than the current tax.

State officials say Illinois hopes to earn $350 million with this proposal. Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle said money generated from the tax increase would be used to restructure the state’s Medicaid budget.

Preckwinkle’s proposal has earned the support of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. The group reported the tax would enable a decline in smoking by an estimated 7 percent among young people and would prevent more than 18,000 kids from eventually becoming addicted smokers.

Heather Eagleton, American Cancer Society director of public policy and government relations, said the society supports this decision because of the promise it offers.

“It could decrease the number of people suffering and dying from cancer,” she said.

Weinberg freshman Aaron Pu said he agrees with the new tax. He said he thinks the tax is reasonable because it would be considered a sin tax, or a tax on behaviors that are generally discouraged. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking causes about 443,000 deaths a year in the United States.

“It’s bad for the environment. It’s bad for your health,” Pu said. “So taxing will discourage people from buying more cigarettes. It’s a good idea.”

However, not everyone is in favor of the cigarette tax proposal.

State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and state Sen. Tom Cross (R-Plainfield) said in a news release that they support alternative methods other than raising taxes to solve the Medicaid crisis.

Some Northwestern students also oppose the tax increase on cigarettes. Weinberg senior Charles Long said he does not support the tax increase.

“I have friends who smoke, so, no, I don’t support it,” Long said. “There shouldn’t be a tax against them.”