Illinois smokers have already paid at least $40 million in additional taxes so far this fiscal year since lawmakers added another $1 per pack tax earlier this year, but a convenience store group warned that if policymakers ban flavored tobacco products, the state could lose that revenue and more. 

Smokers have paid more than $222.4 million in taxes in the first three months of the current fiscal year, according to the most recent figures from the Illinois Department of Revenue. That's $40.5 million more than the $181.9 million they paid in the first three months of the previous fiscal year.

A proposal to ban flavored tobacco, House Bill 3883, could be heard in a House committee on Tuesday. Supporters of the idea have said flavored products target youth. Opponents of the proposed ban include the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores.

Illinois Association of Convenience Stores Executive Vice President Josh Sharp said the move would hurt Illinois taxpayers.

“This ban would represent about a $300 million hit to the state’s budget in terms of taxes that the state would stand to collect but lose out on,” he said. “Of that $300 million, about $160 million of that would come out of the state’s capital construction program.”

The $1 per pack tax increase was earmarked for construction projects such as school and other public buildings included in the $45 billion statewide capital plan enacted this summer. The six-year Rebuild Illinois plan will be funded by increases to a variety of taxes and fees.

“We’re supposed to get that (increased cigarette tax) money for vertical construction projects,” Sharp said. “That’s $160 million a year that they won’t get. You take that out over six years, you’re close to $1 billion the state of Illinois stands to lose out on, money that it would have had, but it won’t now because we’re going to ban these products.”

The measure also bans flavored e-cigarettes, something supporters have pushed to combat a nationwide rash of lung injuries and deaths related to vaping. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most of those illnesses were the result of an additive used in illicit THC vaping products sold on the black market.

 “Recent CDC laboratory testing of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (or samples of fluid collected from the lungs) from 29 patients with EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the BAL fluid samples,” the federal agency reported last week. “This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries.”

There have been three deaths related to vaping in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health said it is investigating another 42 possible cases of lung injuries in the state related to vaping.

Such products, the CDC said, were likely obtained from "informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak."

Opponents of banning flavored vaping products have said such a move will push consumers to unregulated products, potentially making the problems worse.

Tuesday afternoon’s hearing on HB3883 has 29 proponents listed for the ban. There are 819 people who have filed witness slips in opposition to the proposed ban.

The committee could also take up Senate Bill 1864, which would wrap vaping into the state’s Smoke Free Illinois Act, which bans smoking in places of public accommodations such as restaurants and bars.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.