Proposed cigarette tax may not have large impact on smoking habits
By Jenn Tyborski
Monday through Friday, students are greeted by the pungent odor of cigarette smoke as they enter any of Roosevelt University’s entrances. Laws state that smokers need to be a minimum of 15 feet away from an entrance, but people do not always adhere to this.
Recently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a proposal to increase the tax on each pack of cigarettes by 75 cents.
Currently, the tax per pack has been on freeze since 2006 at 68 cents. Combine local and state taxes, smokers pay an additional $6.67 per pack. Should Emanuel’s proposed tax increase pass, smokers are looking at paying $7.42 per pack in taxes alone.
Right now, Chicago holds the second highest tax rate on cigarette packs to New York, where the current tax rate is $6.86 per pack. Moving forward with the proposal will put Chicago at the top—by 56 cents.
Brad Reading is a sophomore at Roosevelt. Reading will smoke a few cigarettes a day. On average, he said he spends about $14 per week for one pack of American Spirit cigarettes.
When asked how the proposed tax increase would affect his smoking habits, Reading said, “I’d probably buy less [packs], but I’d still buy.”
According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, the current tax income has dropped greatly—from $32.9 million in 2006 to $16.5 million this year. Already, consumers are driving to Wisconsin and Indiana where the tax rate is much cheaper.
Reading participates in purchasing outside of Chicago.
“I usually buy a couple packs when I go home to Cincinnati,” Reading said. “They’re like half the cost.”
In Wisconsin, the state tax on cigarettes is $2.52 without any additional local taxes. Indiana also has a flat tax rate on cigarettes—at $1.98 per pack.
However, crossing state lines may not be the best option. Although not a smoker herself, senior Ernesta Ignotalte feels traveling may not be worth it.
“Unless they’re buying cigarettes in huge bulks, it doesn’t really reduce the cost,” Ignotalte said. “They’re spending money on travel, so in the end they’re paying about the same, if not more.”
Where did the current rate of $6.67 come from, then?
In Chicago, smokers pay a tax for Chicago ($0.68), Cook County ($3.00) and the state of Illinois ($1.98). There is also a federal tax of $1.01.
Cicero also has its own rate of a total of $5.14 (plus federal tax); the individual Cicero rate is $0.16. The remaining areas of Illinois only charge $1.98 for state tax.
According to the Sun-Times report, the mayor believes raising the tax will help curb the amount of smokers in the city.
Johnny Gonzales, junior, disagrees with the mayor’s statement.
“They are still affordable, in a way,” Gonzales said. “People can easily go to Indiana to get them. People are only fazed by money the first time, but it’s an issue that the users don’t care about.”
Gonzales also raised the issue of how media plays into the equation.
“It also becomes a class issue because media shows white suburban kids smoking, celebrities, people of power,” Gonzales said. “It goes down from the people who think they should do that, the relatable, and the people who idolize them.”
Will the tax increase influence how often consumers smoke? With options of traveling across state lines, it’s likely the sales of cigarette packs in Chicago will continue to decrease. But even as Reading stated, people are still going to buy cigarettes.