Experts react to one dollar cigarette tax hike

By Anna Yee

April 30, 2012 Updated Apr 30, 2012 at 6:26 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois lawmakers have about one month until the spring legislative session ends and one of the items still on the table is attempting to close the $2.7 billion Medicaid gap.

That's why Governor Pat Quinn is still pushing a cigarette tax hike.

According to published reports, Quinn is now tying the one dollar-per-pack tax increase to improving health care.

Reports say the tax would generate nearly $700 million, including federal matching funds, all going towards the state's Medicaid shortfall.

Some proponents say the proposal will save lives.

In a statement, the American Cancer Society said: "More than 70,000 youth will never smoke and more than 38,000 current Illinois residents will be spared from premature death caused by smoking."

Those against the tax hike say that's unrealistic.

"They'll cross state lines. They'll mail order. They'll roll their own," said Mary Ann Work, a local smoke shop owner. "I don't think they're (government members) going to make near the money they think they're going to make."

"With any addiction, once a person becomes addicted they'll go to any length to get their drug of choice, so to speak, so the price isn't going to matter," said addiction counselor Tonya Camacho.

Camacho says the majority of cases at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery are nicotine-related.

Smokers we talked to said the if the one-dollar tax hike passes, they would likely continue buying cigarettes.

The Illinois spring legislative session is slated to conclude on May 31.

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