Cigarette tax could impact IL tobacco shops

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The cost of cigarettes could go up by a dollar if some Illinois lawmakers have their way.

A bill awaiting Governor Pat Quinn's approval calls for cigarettes to be taxed at $1.98 a pack.

The number of customers who walk through the door of Discount Tobacco Warehouse in Moline has gone up from 40 to more than 200 since the store first opened last fall.

"I'm worried about it," said Laura Bomgardner, the store’s manager.

She’s worried that number could go down if a new state law is signed, taxing the price of cigarettes by another dollar.

"I think it'll push more people across the river, because a lot of people are on budgets," said Beth Kirby, a customer.

That's exactly the concern for tobacco sellers across the Illinois Quad Cities.

"People might go to Iowa, instead of shopping in Illinois, which means the state's going to lose revenue anyway," said Bomgarder.

"I won't,” said Sheri Dowell, another customer. “I'll still stay in Illinois and get my cigarettes That's not bad, really. I'll still smoke. They can't stop me from smoking."

It's a sentiment, tobacco shop workers like Bomgardner hope is echoed throughout their solid customer base.

"There are a lot of people who use tobacco products, just like there are a lot of people who use alcohol products,” she said. “But, they're not taxing that."

The cigarette hike is one way Illinois lawmakers are trying to fund $2.7 billion in Medicaid savings.

Lawmakers have already approved $1.6 billion in program spending cuts.