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ND a Step Close to Raising Cigarette Tax

A move to raise North Dakota's nearly lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax is awaiting approval to get onto the November ballot. (iStockphoto)
A move to raise North Dakota's nearly lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax is awaiting approval to get onto the November ballot. (iStockphoto)
July 8, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota is one step closer to raising one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation.

In an effort to curb youth smoking, advocates say they've got enough signatures to get a cigarette tax hike on the November ballot. The state hasn't raised tobacco taxes in more than two decades. This latest proposal would bump the tax from 44 cents a pack to slightly more than $2 to bring North Dakota in line with neighboring states.

Kristie Wolff, tobacco-control manager for the American Lung Association of North Dakota, said research has shown that raising taxes is one of the best ways to keep young people from starting smoking.

"This initiative is estimated to reduce youth smoking rates by 20 percent, preventing approximately 5,800 North Dakota youths from ever starting," she said, "and that's huge."

Opponents of the idea, including the North Dakota Retail Association, have said the tax hike would unfairly burden low-income smokers and could hurt the businesses that legally sell tobacco products.

If voters approve the idea, it's expected to raise an additional $200 million in tax revenue. Wolff said the extra money would go toward health services for people struggling with mental illness and addiction.

"In the long term, we're going to see health-care cost reduction," she said. "The state of North Dakota's estimated to save nearly $246.5 million from the reduction in adult and youth tobacco use, because of this initiative."

The Raise It for Health North Dakota coalition has submitted more than 22,000 signatures to the North Dakota Secretary of State's office. The agency has slightly more than a month to decide whether the initiative will get onto the ballot.

Information on the tax proposal is online at raiseitforhealthnd.com.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND