Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cigarettes in Chicago may get Costlier

NOTE TO READERS: WHAT YOU MAY PAY FOR A PACK OF CIGARETTES CAN VARY, DEPENDING ON THE RETAILER AND WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE ON SALE AT THE TIME, LIKE NEWPORT 100'S. SOME PACKS OF CIGARETTES MAY BE SOLD AT $6 AND SOME CHANGE, INCLUDING TAX. THE PROPOSED TAX WOULD SEE PRICES CLIMB TO $7 AND SOME CHANGE, IN THESE CASES.

12-20-05
copyright 2005
Contributing Writer

EDITOR'S NOTE --PULLOUT BOX:
Cook County residents are encouraged to voice their opinions about the proposed
2006 budget at an upcoming series of public hearings.
January 5, 6:30 p.m. at the Markham Courthouse; January 6, 10:00 a.m. at the
Cook County Building; January 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Skokie Courthouse; January 12,
6:30 p.m. at the Maywood Courthouse.

Subhead suggestion: Windy City smokers play a game of give and take

A proposed county cigarette tax increase could bring the price of cigarettes in
Chicago to $8 or more a pack.
However, according to the 2006 county budget proposal released Monday, property
taxes will not be raised.
Smokers at Chicago Legend, a South Loop bar, kept the proposed tax increase in
perspective and took it in stride.
Freddie Atkins, 40, said he would continue to purchase cigarettes because it is
only a $1 difference and because he intends to continue to smoke. His friend, a
woman who only wanted to be identified as Ms. Tina, had mixed feelings.
"It's more money out of my pocket but I don't need to do it anyway," she said,
adding that as a property holder in the county, "either way, I'll get it,' (in tax
increases).
She said she was glad the tax was placed on cigarettes rather than
her property but storeowners had a slightly different perspective.
Mustafa Muhammad, owner of a 7-11 in the 5200 block of North Western, said he
thinks his customers will stop buying so many cigarettes but wonders how many
more will express anger at him because they don't understand the tax increase. He said cigarettes at his store cost about $6 without tax included.
"Maybe they will stop smoking. Maybe they will buy them somewhere else. They
get mad at us when they are so expensive," Muhammad said.
In a blog dated Decmeber 22, 2005 Tim Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, said in "Burned: Cigarette taxes are unfair to smokers," that the taxes on cigarettes in the city could go as high as $4.02 per pack if the proposed tax increase is allowed. (so just tack that on to whatever the taxless price of smokes are and you will have an accurate description of what to hand the cashier).
A sign from cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris was spotted in the cashier's
window in nearby Hammond, Ind., asking proprietors to limit the number of
cartons of cigarettes that customers could purchase at one time.
Reasons for the proposed cigarette tax increase are due to significant reductions in federal
health care reimbursements to the state, rising costs for employee benefits and other
increasing financial requests--all which resulted in a $307 million county budget shortfall, according
to a Cook County Board of Commissioners released statement.
The $1 tax increase on cigarettes, if approved, will bring $2 in taxes to
the county coffers, instead of the $1 the current tax structure now allows. It will yield $75 million for next yearÂ’s budget, making
sure public health services are not cut, Cook County Board President John H.
Stroger said.
Included in the proposed cuts are, "nearly 100 staff positions." Also, there
will be no new positions created.
"It's doubling the net profit the county will get. That money is plugging the
gap in federal Medicaid reimbursements (cuts)," John Gibson, a spokesman for
Stroger told the Defender.
Public safety is the largest part of the county's budget with funding levels in
excess of $1 billion. That budget funds the operations of the Sheriff, Chief
Judge, Clerk of the Court, State's Attorney, Public Defender, Judicial Advisory
Council and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
The 2006 budget provides almost $830 million for the Bureau of Health, which
funds Stroger, Oak Forest and Provident Hospital operating costs, the Department
of Public Health, CORE and 28 ambulatory clinics.
"Prescriptions are probably the fastest increasing healthcare service we
provide. In 2003 we filled 2.2 million prescriptions. In 2005 we filled nearly
3.8 million," Stroger said.

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