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.