SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) – Smokers can get around the state cigarette tax by rolling their own. More accurately, by going to a store which has a cigarette machine allowing you to put in loose tobacco and 200 pre-rolled papers.
The finished product comes out in minutes, and you walk away with a carton’s worth of cigarettes for about twenty bucks, as opposed to the fifty or more you’d pay for the leading national brand at a convenience store. That’s because the tax rate is different, and a bill which a Senate committee heard Wednesday would change that.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Terry Link (D-Waukegan) who says his measure is about fairness.
The Illinois Department of Revenue’s Jim Nichelson says, “In one year, we see the amount of tax that would have otherwise been collected (rise) from $2.1 million to $10.7 million. This is a rapidly increasing method to produce cigarettes without being subject to the cigarette tax.”
Advocates of the “roll your own” industry said all the bill would do is encourage the customers – who already pay some tax – to go out-of-state or to the Internet. Owners of roll-your-own shops in Worth and Peoria described themselves as job creators who would have to put their employees out of work if the bill passes.
After other senators had questions about who would benefit and who would be hurt, Link agreed to work on the bill some more. Another element of the bill drawing concern is the provision that would classify the store owners as manufacturers and subject them to further regulation.