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Health Commissioner Says Cigarette Tax Hike Would Save Lives

CBS Chicago (con't)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago’s public health commissioner told aldermen Tuesday that a 75-cent-per-pack cigarette tax hike would be a life-saver, as he made the case for the Emanuel administration’s budget plan.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Dr. Bechara Choucair cited his experience practicing medicine around the world as he told the City Council Budget Committee as he tried to persuade aldermen to support a tax he said would improve health in the city.

“I saw patients in Iraq, and Guatemala, and Mexico; and the number one reason as to why people are dying in all these places is related to smoking. So we have the responsibility to act,” he said. “The cigarette tax is a proven public policy approach to save lives, to save … healthcare dollars in the long-run, and add revenue.”

The city hopes to bring in $10 million a year in new revenue from the cigarette tax hike.

Some aldermen are leery of hiking cigarette taxes, worrying smokers will take their business to the suburbs or Indiana.

Choucair tried to counter that reluctance by saying fewer people buying cigarettes would be a good thing.

“It’ll save 3,500 lives on the long-term from premature death related to tobacco, and then over 5,500 adults will quit smoking because of this tax,” he said. “Absolutely, it saves lives.”

Choucair said the tax would deter smoking even more in low-income neighborhoods.