It's been one of those crazy days (weeks, actually, and it's just Tuesday!) where I think about having a cigarette.
A lot of folks in California right now are probably chain smoking or whatever other habit they turn to when they're nervous. The Golden State is voting as I type on a proposal to almost double California's cigarette excise tax.
There are lots of arguments for and against such a tax hike. They were debated recently in Illinois. The pro-tax contingent won there.
Prairie State smokers will be paying $1.98 more a pack as soon as Gov. Pat Quinn signs the measure, which he is expected to do any time now.
Higher tobacco taxes, mean illegal cigarette sellers: And the enactment of the higher tax means law enforcement officers can expect to see an increase in cigarette smuggling in Illinois.
It's already started.
The Chicago Tribune reported today on three men who had planned to buy more than 1,000 packs of unstamped cigarettes to resell. Without the official markings, the trio would have avoided paying local taxes.
Their cigarette seller, however, was an informant for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The three men now face felony charges.
When the new tax pushes the price of a pack of cigarettes in Chicago past $10, expect to see more black market cigarette efforts as smugglers and illegal sellers try to turn a profit.
"It's going to get a lot worse," Michael Anton, commander of special operations at the Cook County sheriff's office, told the newspaper. "There's so much money involved in it. If you have a large cache of cigarettes and you're selling them cheaper, people are going to come to you. Word gets around."
Of course, the good news is that the higher price of cigarettes could mean more Illinois residents join me in the no-smoking section.
"When the price goes up, especially by a big amount like this, you get a lot of smokers who are going to want to try to quit," Frank J. Chaloupka, economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune. "Our estimates suggest that for every 10 percent increase you get in price, you see about 2 percent of smokers quit."
Do you smoke? Would higher cigarette prices make you quit? Would you seek out cheaper, but illegally untaxed cigarettes? Or would you pay whatever it costs to feed your nicotine habit?
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