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Group wants to raise ND tobacco tax

Dave Thompson
/
Prairie Public

Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public
/
Prairie Public
Dr. Eric Johnson, Grand Forks, chair of the tobacco tax measure sponsoring committee.

A group plans to initiate a measure to raise North Dakota tobacco taxes.

The current tobacco tax is 44 cents per pack of cigarettes. “Raise It For Health” is proposing to raise it to $2.20 per pack.

Kristie Wolff of the American Lung Association of North Dakota is coordinating the effort. She says it actually started after the 2015 Legislature rejected any tobacco tax increase.

"Increasing the price of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among youth," Wolff told Bismarck reporters. "Past polling shows nearly 70 percent of North Dakota residents support increasing tobacco taxes as a proven way to prevent young people from ever starting to use tobacco."

"An increase of $1.76 per pack is estimated to decrease youth smoking by 20 percent," said Dr. Eric Johnson of Grand Forks, the chairman of the sponsoring committee. "That would prevent about 5800 youths from ever starting smoking in our state, saving that generation about $250 million in lifetime health care costs."

Money collected from the increased tax would go to support veterans’ programs, as well as programs that deal with chronic disease, mental illness and addiction.

Opponents have argued this is only a tax increase, not a health issue.

"I don't want to sound flip when I say this, but this is a tax nobody has to pay," Johnson said. "It is not a product required for living. It's a product that creates death. And if people don't want to pay the tax, they can stop buying the product."

Once the group starts circulating petitions, it will need 13,452 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.