House approves decriminalizing loose cigarettes

A measure to lessen the penalty for selling loose cigarettes is moving to the Illinois Senate, something supporters say will save taxpayers money.

In July 2014, Eric Garner died after being taken down by police officers in Staten Island, New York. Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes, commonly referred to “loosies.” That prompted an Illinois lawmaker to propose a bill to make selling loosies a finable, rather than criminal, offense.

Democratic state Rep. La Shawn Ford said House Bill 4212 would decriminalize the selling of loosies.

“We don’t want to incriminate people for a petty act of selling loose cigarettes in Illinois,” Ford said. “We want them to pay the cost for their act.”

Ford said the perpetrator would be fined $50 instead of being arrested and going through the court system, something Ford noted costs taxpayers.

Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives agreed.

“You’re basically saving the individual court time, taxpayers’ court time,” Ives said.

Opponents included some county health departments, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

The measure passed the House 60-52 and now heads to the Illinois Senate.

Last year Illinois outlawed the use of chokeholds by police, another measure prompted by Garner’s death.

–Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network

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