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Jury Out on Impact of Cigarette Tax Hike

A little more than a year ago, Illinois nearly doubled its cigarette tax to $1.98. The goal was to raise $350 million to help support the Medicaid system, but that mark hasn’t been reached.Recent numbers show the revenue raised in the first year is $212 million, or 61% of the goal.

“I don’t want to blame anyone, but somebody calculated it wrong,” said State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

Rutherford also said it’s possible the shortfall could be blamed on a number of factors.

“The market wasn’t there, people stopped consuming, or they’re going across the borders or they stockpiled,” he said.

Governor Pat Quinn hoped the tax hike would also help convince people to kick the habit. However, smokers such as Randy Fry said that’s not easy to do, even with a significant tax hike tacked onto the price of a pack.

I don't want to blame anyone, but somebody calculated it wrong

“I need the satisfaction of the strength, the nicotine, and all that,” said Fry, who has been a smoker for 40 years.

Fry, speaking outside Discount Warehouse Tobacco in Macomb, said the tax increase has simply prompted him to switch to less costly cigarettes.

“I used to smoke Marlboro Reds,” said Fry. “Now I’m smoking Marlboro Black 100’s. I can get them cheaper.”

The American Lung Association and the Illinois Tobacco Quit Line were expected to provide data on how many people in Illinois quit smoking since last year. But those figures are not yet available.