Double Tax

Cook County, Ill., raises cigarette levy to $2 per pack

CHICAGO -- Cigarette smokers in Cook County, Ill., can plan to pay an extra $1 per pack in taxes beginning March 1, after the County Board approved the increase last Thursday, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Commissioners voted 10 to 7 to double the county's levy on a pack of cigarettes to $2, bringing the total federal, state and local taxes on a pack purchased in Chicago to $4.05.

The tax increase is expected to generate an additional $70 million for the $3.1-billion 2006 budget, also approved Thursday, said the newspaper. It was the second time in three budget [image-nocss] cycles that the County Board voted to increase the cigarette tax, it added. In 2004, commissioners raised the tax by 82 cents to $1.

Commissioners in favor of the tax increase said it would help offset a reduction in federal Medicaid funds for the county's health system. Those opposed said it would hurt small businesses, such as convenience stores near county borders.

"This ordinance gives our collar counties another reason to like Cook County," Republican Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman told the paper. "I feel this is an over-the-top tax that crushes the business community and slaughters our cash cow."

Commissioner Joan Murphy, a Democrat, said she hopes the tax increase will cause some smokers to quit. "I don't care if it would cost them $100 a pack," she told the Tribune. "I want them to quit."

Voting against the cigarette tax increase were the board's five Republicans, along with Commissioner Forrest Claypool and Chicago Democrat Mike Quigley.