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ND Tobacco Tax-Hike Petition Could Get the OK This Week


Tuesday, March 22, 2016   

BISMARCK, N.D. - A move to raise North Dakota's cigarette taxes could be a step closer to getting onto the November ballot this week.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office is reviewing the measure, which would bump up the state's tobacco tax from 44 cents to $2.20 per pack.

The state tobacco tax hasn't been raised in more than two decades.

Kristie Wolff, program manager for Tobacco Control and Advocacy at the American Lung Association of North Dakota, says her group is backing the tax hike in part because it will help cut down on the number of young smokers.

"Increasing the price of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among youth," says Wolff. "And in past polling, we've seen that North Dakota residents have shown support for increasing the tobacco tax."

The Secretary of State's office has until March 28 to approve or deny the measure, which would then need to earn more than 13,000 signatures by early July to get onto the ballot.

Critics of the idea say it would also unnecessarily raise taxes on electronic cigarettes, which they argue have been used to help some smokers quit. If approved, the measure would treat the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes the same as all other tobacco products.

Wolff says it would also raise about $50 million additional tax dollars a year, partly to go toward veterans' health-care services and a community health trust fund.

"The increase in tax really has a lot of benefit, because we look at those that are affected by smoking," Wolff says. "We lose 1,000 North Dakotans every year from tobacco-related death and disease."

The Raise It for Health North Dakota coalition is spearheading the proposed ballot measure.

The group says about 75 percent of all smokers start before they're 18 years old.

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