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Chicago’s move to raise smoking age could increase Indiana sales

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Chicago’s move to raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes to 21 could increase smoke shop sales in northwestern Indiana, experts said.

Smokers have to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes in Indiana, where nearly two dozen smoke shops are scattered near the state line in cities including Hammond, Munster and Dyer to capitalize on the comparatively lower Indiana taxes.

“We absolutely welcome them with open arms,” said Kathy Marks, who owns K & D Smoke Shop in Hammond.

A carton of Marlboro Reds costs about $60 in Indiana, compared to $120 to $130 in Illinois. Many Illinois residents already buy cigarettes in Indiana it’s cheaper. Marks estimated that about 90 percent of her business comes from Illinois and said customers usually buy several cartons.

Micah Pollak, an assistant professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, said Chicago’s older smoking age definitely will increase tobacco sales in Indiana, mostly from Chicago residents who live nearby or visit Indiana regularly.