Illinois smokers should prepare to spend more money on cigarettes. The proposed dollar-a-pack increase cleared its final legislative hurdle Tuesday. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the measure.
The tax on other tobacco products, like cigars and chew, will also go up. The increase is the second component of governor's plan to save the state's health care program for the poor from collapse. The cigarette tax, coupled with a federal match, will generate $700 million to prevent further cuts to Medicaid.
Advocates say the hike will be incentive for smokers to quit. But critics say smokers in border towns will stop shopping in Illinois.
Senator Mike Jacobs, a Democrat from Moline, fears something like that would happen in his area.
"Living on the border, I've noticed that Illinois' cigarette tax is 98 cents. And if we increase this to a $1.98, how do you think we'll compare with Missouri, whose tax is 17 cents. Will people go across the river to get their cigarettes, or will they leave their buck 71 on the table and say 'I don't want that.'
A $1.98 cigarette tax would put Illinois above the national average of $1.46 per pack.