News Release
June 16, 2014

Chicago Calls On Residents To Join Fight Against Illegal Tobacco Sales

#ChecktheStamps Provides $100 Reward for Tips Leading to Citations



Mayor's Press Office


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today launched a new tobacco prevention program to help stop the illegal sale of cigarettes in Chicago.  The “Check the Stamps” program offers a $100 reward to residents whose reports of illegal sales to 311 or result in a conviction against the person or persons selling cigarettes illegally. 

“We are doing everything we can to help ensure the safety and health of our youth,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  “By enlisting the help of Chicago residents, we can crack down on illegal sales and keep more youth from ever lighting their first cigarette, helping them live longer, healthier lives.”

Cigarettes can only be sold in packs or cartons to people who are 18 years of age or older, and by a retailer with a tobacco license. Furthermore, all packs sold in Chicago must have two stamps visible to the consumer, one from the State of Illinois and one from Cook County.  If both stamps are not on the cigarette packet at the time of purchase, then that is an illegal sale and should be reported to 311 or online at Images of the stamps can be found on the reward program’s website or via social media sites by following hash tag #CheckTheStamps.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease and death in Chicago,” said CDPH Commissioner Bechara Choucair, M.D. “We have made enormous progress in Chicago to protect youth from tobacco, but there is still more work to do.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the national youth smoking rate is at 15.7%. In April, Mayor Emanuel announced Chicago’s rate had hit 10.7%, an all-time low – and five full points below the national average. That news followed a broad range of innovative strategies championed by the Mayor to keep tobacco out of the hands of children.

That news followed a broad range of innovative strategies championed by the Mayor and the City Council to keep tobacco out of the hands of children.

Earlier this year, the Mayor teamed with 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke and 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns to pass an ordinance that requires e-cigarettes to be kept behind the counter in stores, out of the reach of kids. The Administration also joined with 37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts and 16th Ward Alderman JoAnn Thompson to pass a prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco products within a 500-foot radius of schools. In the 2014 budget, he championed a 50-cent per pack cigarette tax increase in Chicago because research shows kids are the most price-sensitive consumers and increasing the price of tobacco is the single most effective way to keep kids from picking up the habit in the first place.

“This new program will help put a stop to illegal sales that are hurting law-abiding businesses and our communities, while providing a reward for residents who step up to do the right thing,” said Alderman Jason Ervin, who championed “Check the Stamps” with Mayor Emanuel as part of an ordinance late last year.

The “Check the Stamps Reward Program” rewards residents for reports that lead to citation for the following:  

  • Any tobacco sales made outside of a retail store.  This includes sales of cartons, packs or individual cigarettes made out of individual’s homes, cars or on the street such as loose cigarettes.
  • Illegal tobacco sales in a retail store including:
  1. Sales to minors
  2. Sales of unstamped packs of cigarettes
  3. Sales of individual, unwrapped cigarettes.
  4. Any sales from a store that does not have the appropriate license.

To be eligible for the $100 reward, residents should file reports online at or call the city’s non-emergency telephone number 311 and file a report with the operator.  Residents must provide his/her first and last name, and most up-to-date contact information to be eligible for the reward.

After a report is filed, the city will review the information and if warranted, an investigator from either the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (for retail stores) or the Chicago Police Department (for other sales) will conduct an investigation.  If the investigator has follow-up questions, she or he may reach out to the resident who reported the case via the contact information provided online or to 311.

If a report results in a conviction or finding of liability for illegal tobacco sales, the city will issue a $100 reward to the resident who filed the report to 311 or online at In most cases, it will be at least six to eight weeks before a violation results in a finding of liability, though it could be longer depending on the investigation and administrative hearing process.

Complete program guidelines and FAQs can be found here.  For more information on other tobacco control and prevention efforts in Chicago, visit