On Wednesday, February 10, the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee voted 22-9 to approve an amended tobacco ordinance which increases the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, sets minimum prices for certain tobacco products, mandates minimum package sizes for various tobacco products, prohibits the redemption of tobacco product coupons, outlaws multi-pack discount pricing, and assesses new taxes on other tobacco products, including a $0.90 per cigar tax. However, a group of city council aldermen used a parliamentary procedure to delay a final vote on the proposed tobacco ordinance to the city council’s next meeting on March 16, 2016.
The parliamentary maneuver to delay the final city council vote occurred because a number of the Chicago City Council members raised questions about the ordinance during a Chicago Finance Committee hearing on the proposed ordinance earlier this week. The questions and concerns raised by council members included the lack of legal authority for the city council to adopt a new OTP tax, the impact of such a tax on lower income residents, the expansion of the current black market in Chicago, the loss of retail jobs, the likelihood of retail store closings, and the fact that 18, 19 and 20 year olds are adults and should be allowed to decide whether to buy and use tobacco products.
The amended ordinance, originally sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, also provides that if a lawsuit is brought against the City of Chicago which results in a court overturning the new tax on other tobacco products, then the minimum price and minimum package size requirements would take effect. The amended ordinance goes on to state that if a lawsuit is not brought to overturn the new OTP tax, then the minimum price and minimum package size requirements would not take effect. This situation creates a dilemma for retailers who will be forced to decide whether to pursue their legal rights to overturn the new OTP tax and face minimum price and package size mandates, or give up their legal rights and involuntarily agree to an unlawful tax on tobacco products in order to avoid minimum price and package size regulations.
The Mayor proposes that some of the revenue from the new tax on tobacco products be utilized to fund smoking cessation programs, in addition to funding incoming high school orientation programs.
If passed and enacted, this tax increase would be devastating to retail tobacconists in Chicago. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has created a link to contact the members of the Chicago City Council IMMEDIATELY to express opposition to a $.90 cigar tax - click HERE, it'll take less than 2 minutes and your assistance in this effort is needed!