The Illinois General Assembly has taken decisive action to protect the state’s kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco use by increasing the state cigarette tax by $1 to $1.98 per pack. The state is also doubling the tax on other tobacco products. Together, these actions will prevent kids from smoking and using other tobacco products, motivate smokers to quit, and save lives and health care dollars. We applaud Governor Pat Quinn for his leadership in proposing the tobacco tax increase as part of a Medicaid funding plan and the General Assembly for acting quickly to approve it.
Higher tobacco taxes are a win-win-win solution for Illinois – a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will provide much-needed funding for Medicaid and a political win that polls show is popular with the voters. Polling has found that more than 70 percent of Illinois voters support increasing the cigarette tax by $1.
The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 6.5 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Illinois can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent 72,700 Illinois kids from becoming smokers; spur 53,400 current adult smokers to quit; save more than 38,600 Illinois residents from smoking-caused deaths; and save $2.4 billion in future health care costs. It will also raise about $350 million a year in new revenue.
In Illinois, tobacco annually claims 16,600 lives and costs the state $4.1 billion in health care bills. While Illinois has made progress in reducing smoking, 18.1 percent of Illinois high school students still smoke, and 68,400 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.
With Illinois’s increase, the average state cigarette tax will be $1.49 per pack. Illinois is the first state to increase its cigarette tax this year. We call on states across the nation to follow Illinois’s lead in significantly increasing the tobacco tax to reduce tobacco use and its devastating health and financial toll.