Forum editorial: Take deep breath and relax

Some folks in North Dakota are in a snit because anti-smoking funds are being used to promote the cause at specific events, such as the Fargo-Moorhead gay pride festival. They should take a deep breath, preferably at a nearby smoke-free bar, and calm down.
ND Quits and the state health department are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They are using funds, some state and federal, some from the multi-year settlement with tobacco companies, to get smokers to quit or others to never start. They are developing and implementing strategies to educate about the known dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. The efforts can include targeting groups with high rates of tobacco use, such as the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population, which is 70 percent more likely to smoke than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the federal dollars for state smoking-cessation programs come from the CDC, it logically follows that the state effort should include the at-risk LGBT community. It’s no different than spending a portion of the budget for information and education programs aimed at youth, women or oil workers – groups, by the way, that are in the anti-smoking agencies’ sights. ND Quits operates under a clear mandate from the people of North Dakota, who overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that set up an agency to manage and spend tobacco settlement dollars. That came a few years ago after an intransigent Legislature refused to act responsibly, even as anti-smoking sentiment took hold in the state.
More silliness about the application of anti-smoking money came from the North Dakota Policy Council’s Zack Tiggelaar. He said that while he supports efforts to encourage smokers to quit, “… is it something the public and taxpayers should be funding?” The answer, as made crystal clear by North Dakota voters, is “yes.”
He added: “The government shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to support specific causes.”
Where has he been? North Dakota has special state tax that goes to research sponsored by the Lignite Energy Council. That’s pretty specific. The state funds loans and grants for beginning farmers. That’s specific. The Renaissance Zone program for cities uses tax incentives (public money) to stimulate private development. Yet another specific cause.
Purists of the council’s ilk might wag a finger, but such programs evolved from long-standing public policy, and ND Quits is operating within the same ethic.
Oh, and by the way, those partnerships – whether associated with lignite research, farm and city investment or smoking cessation – work. The money is well spent.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.