This year, thanks to the work of several dedicated public-health champions, we have a new opportunity to reduce the human and economic toll of tobacco addiction in North Dakota.
On April 15, North Dakota began receiving new tobacco settlement payments called “Strategic Contribution Fund” payments. Each year through 2017, North Dakota will receive $14 million from the Strategic Contribution Fund.
Most North Dakotans clearly feel the first priority for spending tobacco settlement funds should be to save lives by helping folks quit smoking and keeping kids from starting? Poll results have shown North Dakota citizens overwhelmingly want a sufficient amount of tobacco settlement dollars dedicated to prevent tobacco-caused deaths.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, offices have spent 90 percent of North Dakota’s $260 million in tobacco settlement money on projects having nothing to do with tobacco prevention; in fact, nothing to do with any kind of health promotion.
This summer, signatures are being gathered for a “Support Tobacco Prevention” ballot measure to ensure these new Strategic Contribution Funds are used as they were intended – to implement effective tobacco control, including helping people quit smoking, and helping prevent kids and adults from starting to smoke.
Specifically, the measure calls for fully funding a comprehensive Centers for Disease Control-based tobacco control program. Because this is a proven, science-based program, out state’s incidence of heart attacks, lung cancer, emphysema and other diseases will decline as a result. Lives will literally be saved.
Other states that have made this commitment have seen their youth and adult tobacco-use rates drop. And just as predicted, when they sustained the CDC’s proven strategies over time, they achieved disparately high reductions in tobacco-caused diseases such as lung cancer.
For example, in California, home to the longest-running comprehensive program, the number of new cases of lung cancer has been declining four times faster than in the rest of the country. But in North Dakota, lung cancer deaths are actually increasing.
The purpose and stated intent of North Dakota’s tobacco settlement payments was to help our citizens quit smoking and help prevent smoking in our kids and adults. It’s time to do what’s right
Sharon E. Buhr