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Tobacco Free ND: A 'mixed bag' for the 2021 Legislature, thus far

The executive director of Tobacco Free – North Dakota said the 2021 Legislature has been a mixed bag for her organization.

Heather Austin said the Legislature has again declined to raise the tobacco tax. She said that hasn’t been done in North Dakota since 1993. But she says a bill dealing with policies concerning e-cigarettes and vaping is still alive.

"Currently, in North Dakota, they're not classified as tobacco, so they aren't licensed, taxed or regulated, or anything," Austin said in an interview. "We promoted a bill that would have done all of those things."

Austin said that bill did survive, with some amendments.

"It still contains licensing and regulation, but the taxation piece did come out, and some study language, looking at different taxation methods, did go in," Austin said.

That bill is SB 2189.

Austin said her organization is hoping to defeat a measure that would allow “cigar bars.” That measure passed in the House – and will now be considered in the Senate. Austin said her organization opposes anything that weakens the state’s indoor air laws.

"Voters put that indoor air law in place back in 2012," Austin said. "It remains very popularly supported throughout the state. So we're really hopeful that bill will be turned down once again."

A similar measure was defeated in the 2019 session.

That bill is HB 1152. It will be heard in the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee Tuesday at 2:30 pm.

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