Preckwinkle Stands with Medical Leaders Urging Approval of Alcohol, Tobacco Taxes

November 9, 2011

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was joined by Dr. Ramanathan Raju, CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System and leaders in the medical community today at Stroger Hospital to urge the Cook County Board of Commissioners to approve a proposed alcohol tax and an expansion of the tobacco tax in the FY 2012 Budget.

Citing study after study, Preckwinkle noted that raising tax rates on alcohol and tobacco reduces consumption and promotes public health and public safety. Cook County runs an important public health institution so she is mandated by the responsibilities of her office to put forward policies that are good for the well-being of County residents.

“We’re standing together because we all feel very strongly that this is the right thing to do both from a fiscal standpoint and a policy standpoint,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Medical science, and study after study have shown that this is an effective way to promote public health and public safety, while being an effective way to pay for the services our government provides. I urge the County Board to approve these modest revenue increases.”

Preckwinkle added that that tobacco and alcohol consumption respectively are the leading and the third preventable cause of death in the U.S. and that taxing these harmful substances reduces consumption.

Joining President Preckwinkle at the news conference was Dr. Raju who joined President Preckwinkle in calling for the County Board to approve this increase.

“As someone who has been in the healthcare field my entire life, I know too well the negative effect that tobacco and alcohol have on the human body,” said Dr. Raju. “Anything we can to do to reduce consumption is a good idea, and I hope the Board will help us approve what is a smart and effective public health policy.”

Preckwinkle was also joined by representatives from the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, the Chicago Medical Society, the American Heart Association, SEIU Doctor’s Council and the Stroger Hospital Executive Medical Staff.

“We support the proposed ordinance as a way to save lives and lower smoking rates, especially among youth and low-income populations, some of our most vulnerable groups,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association. “A comprehensive tobacco tax is essential to improving public health in Cook County.”

“We whole heartedly support an increase on the unit of alcohol by raising the alcohol tax. The evidence shows that such taxes are highly effective in reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harm,” said Dr. Thomas Anderson, M.D., President of the Chicago Medical Society.

The Alcoholic Beverage Tax rate has not been adjusted since 1989. As alcohol prices have gone up, the County’s effective tax rate on alcohol has decreased. This is an overdue update. The proposal to modestly raise the tax on alcohol restores the tax to its 1995 level, still lower than when it was enacted in 1989. The modest revenue increase will raise the current tax rates by 50%, generating roughly $11 million in new revenue for Cook County. The tobacco tax, currently levied only on cigarettes will now include smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products. It is expected to generate $12.1 million.

The County Board is expected to vote on these items Monday, November 14th.