Taxes on cigarettes are rising yet again in Chicago with a 50-cent increase that makes smokes in the Windy City the most highly-taxed in the country.
Chicago's City Council overwhelmingly approved the cigarette tax hike as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2014 budget on Tuesday.
In combination with state and local taxes, the city tax increase pushes the total taxes on cigarettes sold in the city to $7.17 a pack, WGN reports. Chicago's per-pack cigarette tax will be 31 cents higher than New York City’s $6.86 per pack making them the priciest cigarettes tax-wise in the nation.
Though the tax increase is relatively hefty, it actually marks a rare concession from Mayor Emanuel. The mayor originally proposed at 75-cent increase to the objection of city councilmen concerned it would be met with increased illegal sales of loose cigarettes in their wards.
The $3 million shortfall left by the lower tax increase will be filled by increasing the fine for parking in front a fire hydrant from $100 to $150 and tapping other revenue streams at the city's two airports.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said regardless of the mayor's decision to budge on the taxes, the high rate is likely to push smokers to purchase packs outside the city.
“We still create the black market when we raise that bar at any level,” Ervin told the Sun-Times.
Health officials, meanwhile, were dismayed that the tax on cigarettes wasn't higher.
“The cheaper the cigarettes, the more people who are going to buy cigarettes and the more people who are going to die,” the American Heart Association’s Mark Peysakhovich told the Sun-Times the day before the City Council vote.
The city, however, is still cracking down on smoking in other ways: Emanuel and a few key aldermen are reportedly looking to heavily restrict e-cigarette use in the city with rules that would effectively ban them from public spaces.