Illinois leaders like their taxes from marijuana, not from tobacco

Before the public smoking ban, patrons in 2007 were lighting up in their favorite Belleville bar.
Before the public smoking ban, patrons in 2007 were lighting up in their favorite Belleville bar. BND file photo

We can all be excused for being a little hazy on the logic of our friends in the statehouse, but do we understand correctly that they want to ratchet up the regulations on smoking tobacco at the same time they want to loosen the regulations on smoking marijuana?

The next step in tobacco regulation being introduced by Chicago Democrats is to make it illegal to buy cigarettes if you are younger than 21. The argument is that a 14-year-old is more likely to know someone who’s 18 and can legally buy them smokes now than they would be to know someone who’s 21.

Teen smoking is already half of what it was a decade ago when Illinois banned smoking in public places. The state saved $1 billion in smoking-related hospitalizations since 2008 thanks to tobacco’s decline, but still spends $5.49 billion a year on smoking-related illnesses, anti-smoking activists argue.

Yup. Smoking is bad for you, and bad for our state’s health care costs.

So why are Illinois lawmakers so eager to get everybody high? No worries about the health impacts from taking the smoke from a different dried leaf into our lungs? No problem if the THC is in a gummy bear or vape pen?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse said language and brain development are affected, though Jeff Spicoli would argue, “Bud. No way!” Pregnant women, those with asthma and those with heart conditions are all at greater risk.

The reality is that there’s is a rush towards marijuana legalization without a lot of research into public health impacts. Last year the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine tried to put together advice for the 28 states and D.C. that legalized medical marijuana and eight that legalized recreational marijuana and found: “A lack of scientific research has resulted in a lack of information on the health implications of cannabis use, which is a significant public health concern for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and adolescents.”

So Illinois is ignoring the health questions, why? Pot taxes.

If we are so desperate to trade Illinoisans’ potential health for cash, wouldn’t it just be easier to promote tobacco and rake in that $1.98 the state collects on each pack? Now there’s a proven revenue stream.