President Preckwinkle, Dr. Raju, Health Advocates Highlight Public Health Benefits of Cigarette Tax

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) CEO Dr. Ram Raju joined with local physicians and healthcare advocates at the Cook County Trauma and Burn Unit at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital to highlight the public health benefits of a proposed $1 increase in the cigarette tax.

Preckwinkle pointed to a recent analysis by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids which shows that increasing the cigarette tax in Cook County would have a significant impact on the health of the County’s residents and CCHHS. The analysis shows that 10,300 Cook County residents will be saved from premature smoking-caused death. The increase also is projected to lead to a 7.2 percent decrease in youth smoking and prevent 18,400 children from becoming addicted adult smokers. The increase has the added benefit of getting roughly 16,100 current adult smokers to quit smoking.

“We’re saving lives and money by increasing the tax on a harmful and addictive product which for years has put young people on a path to poor health and taken a toll on our communities,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “The money this increase generates will allow us to invest in the critical functions of our public health system like the Cook County Trauma and Burn Unit.”

The analysis projects that the 5-year heath care cost savings from fewer smoking-caused heart attacks and strokes will be $7.8 million. As smoking rates among adults and children continue to decline, long-term health care cost savings could reach $640.6 million.

“Raising taxes on cigarettes will have a significant impact on smoking rates and reduce the number of smoking-related illness throughout Cook County,” said Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. “This is a proven public policy tool that will benefit both residents and the health system for years to come.”

At a news conference today President Preckwinkle and Dr. Raju were joined by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Respiratory Health Association, the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, the American Cancer Society, the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco, Illinois Health Matters, representatives from organized labor, and Cook County Commissioners Jerry Butler (D-3rd) and Edwin Reyes (D-8th).

“Physicians and healthcare providers can only do so much through education and medications to help patients stop smoking once they have started,” said Timothy A. Sanborn, MD, Cardiologist and Member of the American Heart Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee. “Numerous medical studies have shown that public policy initiatives such as raising cigarette taxes reduce smoking and smoking related heart attacks, strokes, and death. This is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. We applaud President Preckwinkle’s leadership and urge the Cook County Board to approve this proposal.”