Potential tobacco tax could boost illegal industry, some aldermen say

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CHICAGO — Mayor Emanuel is working to raise the smoking age and tobacco taxes in Chicago. The money would go toward propping up financially strapped schools.

It sounds like a plan few people could argue with, but on Monday night quite a few aldermen did. They say they have a very good reason; a booming illegal industry in some neighborhoods.

The problem is not new. “Loosies,” as they are known. Single cigarettes sold on street corners. Some of the sellers raking in hundreds of dollars a day with very little risk of prosecution, while hurting legitimate retailers.

Some aldermen say the mayor’s plan would turn that problem into an epidemic.

The plan is shelved for now, but it’ll be back. The mayor’s office says it’s working with aldermen to tweak a plan it calls a win-win: keeping kids away from smoking while giving them better schools..

In the meantime odds are someone made nearly $1,000 dollars selling loosies in Garfield Park on Monday.