Forum faults state for lax tobacco
A demand for state
legislators to increase funding for tobacco prevention programs was
issued at a community health forum at Elk Grove Village Hall Tuesday
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson and former tobacco industry
figure Patrick Reynolds accused Illinois state government of
squandering tobacco tax revenues that they say should be spent on
smoking prevention programs.
"The State of Illinois is turning its back on its
responsibility," Johnson said, explaining that the state takes in
about $1 billion annually in cigarette tax revenues. "It used to
spend $50 million a year (on prevention programs). Last year, it was
$11 million. This year, it's even less."
About 40 people attended the forum, which was sponsored by
Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.
Dr. Charles Baum, vice president of health affairs for Alexian
Brothers, said that a recent hospital survey indicates that 17
percent of residents in the northwest suburbs are smokers.
In order to reduce that trend in the future, Baum said that
public policies are needed to discourage smoking -- namely taxes,
bans and preventive programs.
Starting June 1, businesses in Elk Grove Village that sell
cigarettes will have to pay fees of either $1,000 or $5,000 per
year, depending on the size of the operation. That money will be
used to fund smoking prevention programs locally.
"You are going to pay to help put yourself out of business,"
The Elk Grove Village Board also passed an indoor smoking ban
that will take effect Jan. 1.
Reynolds, an vocal opponent of the tobacco industry, said that
Elk Grove Village's stand on tobacco use serves as a model for
Illinois, where the state spends around 1 percent of tobacco tax
revenues on prevention programs.
"We've got to do better in Illinois for our health and for the
health of our future, our kids," he said, urging state legislators
to "do the right thing."
Reynolds' grandfather, R.J. Reynolds, founded the tobacco company
that now owns Camel and Winston. He walked out on the industry,
however, because his father died from emphysema caused by smoking,
No one attending the morning forum spoke in opposition to Elk
Grove Village's smoking policies.
Johnson said he plans to meet with state legislators serving Elk
Grove Village to explain the community's new policies and to urge
them to set aside more money for prevention programs.
In the mean time, Johnson said the village's Board of Health will
soon propose guidelines for the anti-smoking programs that will be
funded by tobacco tax revenues.