By RODNEY HART
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Mississippi River bridge traffic to and from Quincy might be up just a bit this week.
Illinois raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes $1 to $1.98 a pack on Sunday. Across the bridge in Missouri, where state taxes are the lowest in the country at 17 cents a pack, sales are expected to be up.
"Nearly everybody says they are going to have to go to Missouri now," says Frank Winking, owner of Winking's Market in Quincy. "A few say they have to quit now. How serious they are, I don't know."
A package of Marlboro cigarettes cost $5.85 at Winking's Tuesday, and that's before the $1 increase. He expects some brands to cost $8 a pack once the increase, along with existing local taxes, kick in.
"Not any more," Winking said, when asked if the store did much cigarette business. "We're too close to the river."
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, lauded Illinois for raising the tax on the organization's website at tobaccofreekids.org. He said the increase will prevent kids from smoking and using other tobacco products, motivate smokers to quit and save lives and health care dollars. Myers said polling has found more than 70 percent of Illinois voters supported the tax.
"The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids," Myers said. "Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 6.5 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent."
Myers said Illinois can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent 72,700 Illinois kids from becoming smokers, spur 53,400 current adult smokers to quit, save more than 38,600 Illinois residents from smoking-caused deaths and save $2.4 billion in future health care costs. It will also raise about $350 million a year in new revenue -- a figure some have disputed if the tax sends smokers to other states or prompts them to quit the habit.
The legislation was a key component in efforts by the Gov. Pat Quinn administration and state lawmakers in coming up with $2.7 billion in cuts and new revenue in the Medicaid program. The cigarette tax increase followed approval of $1.6 billion in Medicaid cuts. Another $300 million previously was shifted to health care from other state funds.
In L&D Discount Tobacco in West Quincy, Mo., manager Marcy Holden said 80 percent of her customers are from Illinois or Iowa. There has been a lot of complaining by customers about the tax increase, she said.
"Everybody says they are going to quit. Some do, some don't," Holden said. "Generally they just go to cheaper cigarettes."
Holden says business will be up because of the Illinois tax. At some point, Holden expects Missouri also to raise cigarette taxes, but the state Legislature so far has not seen fit to do so.
"But we'll still be cheaper than Iowa and Illinois," she said.
L&D employee Stella Shake says she lives in Illinois and used to come to the store to buy cigarettes more cheaply. She doesn't agree with the tax increase.
"Everybody is tired of getting gouged by the government," she said.