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Bismarck Tribune: Coalition pushes tobacco tax measure

Photo by Tom Stromme, Bismarck Tribune

Photo by Tom Stromme, Bismarck Tribune


Members of a coalition seeking an increase in the state’s tobacco tax say their proposed increase would reduce smoking rates as well as state health care costs among other benefits.
“That’s the missing leg of the three-legged stool,” Eric Johnson, a Grand Forks physician and head of the measure’s sponsoring committee, Raise It for Health North Dakota.
Two-thirds of North Dakota voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure making public places smoke-free. In 2008, nearly 54 percent of voters approved the creation of a state tobacco prevention and control program.
Other states that have raised the tax have seen decreases in smoking, according to Johnson, adding that the measure will help beef up the state’s tobacco prevention efforts.
“This is a tax nobody has to pay. It’s a product that creates death,” Johnson said.
Kristie Wolff, with the American Lung Association in North Dakota, said the measure would increase the tobacco tax for cigarettes in North Dakota from 44 cents per pack to $2.20. Taxes on liquid nicotine products would be increased from 28 percent of the wholesale purchase price to 56 percent.
The national average tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.61.
New tax revenues created through the measure, estimated at about $100 million per biennium, would be split between health-related programs in the state’s Community Health Trust Fund as well as a newly created Veterans Tobacco Tax Trust Fund.
“We’re confident that North Dakota voters will respond positively yet again,” Wolff said.
Only Georgia, Missouri and Virginia have lower tobacco taxes than North Dakota. The tobacco tax in North Dakota hasn’t been raised since 1993.
Being a statutory initiative, 13,452 legitimate signatures will be required at least 120 days before the election. The deadline for turning in signatures for the Nov. 8 election is July 11.
Several unsuccessful attempts have been legislatively in the year since the last tax increase.
Wolff said the increase would bring North Dakota in line with the surrounding states in the tax per pack of cigarettes. The tax in Minnesota is $3 per pack, in Montana it’s $1.70 and in South Dakota it’s $1.53.
“We based it on polling we’ve done,” Wolff told reporters when asked how the group came to the $1.76 per pack increase being proposed.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the tax increase could result in a 20 percent drop in youth smoking, preventing about 5,800 youths from becoming adult smokers, Johnson said.
North Dakota Retail Association president Mike Rud said the group he leads will need to review the measure language and watch to see if it gets the necessary signatures for a vote. The group opposed both 2015 bills.
Rud said on first glance the proposed increase is substantial, adding that taxing cigarettes would negatively impact lower-income smokers.
“Taxing a group that can least afford it? It’s a bit troublesome to us,” said Rud, clarifying that tobacco products aren’t illegal and retailers sell them to meet demand among legal buyers.
“There’s got to be a limit to how involved we get with these things,” Rud said.

Valley News Live: Coalition wants to raise North Dakota tobacco tax

By: Natalie Parsons
FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) It has been proposed in the state of North Dakota to raise the tax on tobacco products.
If it passes, you will see it on your ballot this November.
Supporters already started collecting some of the required 13,000 plus signatures.
North Dakota has not increased its tobacco tax since 1993 and now the Raise It For Health North Dakota coalition thinks it’s time.
The proposed tobacco tax will increase the tax on cigarettes from $0.44 per pack up to $2.20 per pack.
Scott Platfers says, “Going to have to pay more if I want to continue but I’m hoping that it might deter me too because it’s something I’ve been wanting to quit for a long time.”
The ultimate goal for this tobacco tax increase is to hopefully decrease youth smoking by 20 percent and prevent 5800 youth from ever starting.
The Fargo smoker says, “It’s not going to prevent all of them but I think it’s going to get some of them and every little bit helps.”
The coalition has already started getting signatures on this initiated measure.
The petition needs exactly 13,452 signatures in order appear on the November 8th ballot.
Platfers says, “It’s a double edged sword. It’ll effect me but as long as it would help somebody? Yeah, I would sign it.”
The proposed tobacco tax is estimated to bring in over $100-million new revenue to North Dakota with plans to go towards many health care services.
http://www.valleynewslive.com/home/headlines/Coalition-to-raise-North-Dakota-tobacco-tax-372303722.html

Bismarck Tribune: Group proposes to raise tax on tobacco

NICK SMITH, Bismarck Tribune

A coalition seeking to reduce tobacco use in North Dakota will unveil a proposed ballot measure Wednesday, which would raise the state’s tobacco tax — one of the lowest in the nation.
The group, Raise it for Health North Dakota, will make its announcement in Memorial Hall inside the state Capitol on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the group said details of the proposed measure wouldn’t be disclosed until the announcement.
As of January, data from the tobacco prevention group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids showed that North Dakota’s tobacco taxes are at 44 cents per pack. Only Georgia, Missouri and Virginia are lower. The tobacco tax in North Dakota hasn’t been raised since 1993.
Two bills proposing tobacco tax increases in the 2015 session failed.
House Bill 1421 would have raised the state’s cigarette tax to $1.54 per pack. It would also have raised the excise tax on other tobacco products from 28 percent of the wholesale purchase price to 43.5 percent. House lawmakers killed it by a 34-56 vote.
Senate Bill 2322 would have raised the cigarette tax in the state to $2 per pack; it failed in the Senate by a 17-30 vote.
Last session, health care officials supported the bills while retail groups opposed it. Several legislative attempts to raise the tax have failed since 1993.
Opponents of the 2015 bills used 2012 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to argue tobacco use isn’t a major problem in North Dakota. The data showed that North Dakota in 2012 ranked 37th in adult smoking and 49th in smokeless tobacco use. Among youth smokers, North Dakota ranked 34th among 44 states reporting data.
North Dakota voters in November 2012 approved a ballot measure making public places smoke-free. Two-thirds of voters supported the measure.
http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/group-proposes-to-raise-tax-on-tobacco/article_4bd0f2cc-48bf-5e23-9008-be55a0db7268.html