Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been trying to get the minimum age to purchase tobacco products increased for nearly a month, as well as a tax increase on several tobacco products—including premium cigars—to fund a program to transition eighth graders to high school.
On Monday, those efforts hit a roadblock when Alderman raised their objections and some argued the law might be illegal. Things didn’t go much better for Emanuel earlier today, when a vote on his amended proposal was tabled until at least next month.
After the council’s Finance Committee seemed to bring an end to the tax increase on Monday, they relented on Wednesday morning and granted preliminary approval to the mayor’s proposal, which now has amendments that double the fines for retailers selling to persons under age, and that a portion of the money raised from the new tax must also go to smoking cessation programs and enforcement of tobacco sales rules, as well as the high school program.
However, that wasn’t enough to get the council to support it, as Alderman Edward Burke, the committee chairman, opted not to bring the matter up for a vote, citing the negative economic impact it would have on retailers as well as spurring an increase in the sale of “loosies,” or single cigarettes, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Ald. Leslie Hairston said she will use the delay to recruit other aldermen to oppose the issue as well as to pressure the mayor into making more changes to the proposal.
There also remains the issue of whether or not state law would even allow Chicago to tax chewing tobacco beyond what it is already taxed at, though some aldermen and the mayor appear ready to take the matter to court. Should the proposal on new taxes be struck down, the mayor’s proposal will seek minimum pricing on other tobacco products.
Emanuel is seeking a 90 cent per cigar tax on all large cigars, which would on top of a state tax of 36 percent tax on the wholesale price and a 30 cent per cigar tax imposed by Cook County. Additionally, small cigars would receive an additional 15 cent per cigar tax, a $6.60 per ounce tax on roll-your-own tobacco and $1.80 per ounce tax on smokeless tobacco.