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Anti smoking and other health groups want lawmakers to keep 'Breathe ND'

A coalition of North Dakota anti-smoking and health groups is asking the Legislature to continue the funding the state’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.

The agency was created in 2008 by initiated measure. It’s funded through an additional settlement in a lawsuit against several big tobacco companies.

In his executive budget, former Governor Jack Dalrymple proposed eliminating the agency, transferring some of its duties to the state Health Department and using some of the settlement money for other purposes. Current Governor Doug Burgum is supporting the agency's elimination.

The advocates say North Dakota is one of two states that gets an “A” grade from the American Lung Association for its spending on tobacco prevention and control policies. And they say the Health Department dealswith cessation issues.

"In the quest to allocate state resources towards investments that do the most good, for the most people, it makes no sense to marginalize the leading cause of chronic disease, disability and early death," said Becky Anderson of Fargo, a respiratory therapist who is on the advisory board to the Center. "Breathe ND is accomplishing what the citizens of North Dakota asked them to."

The coalition says North Dakota voters knew what they were doing when they passed the measure in 2008.

The measure to eliminate the agency is pending in the state Senate.

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