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N.D. ranked No. 1 in protecting kids from tobacco

North Dakota is ranked first in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and to help smokers quit, according to a report released Monday by a coalition of public health organizations.

The state will spend $9.5 million in fiscal year 2014 on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. That’s 102.3 percent of the amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alaska is ranked second, spending $10.1 million, or 94.8 percent of the CDC-recommended amount.

“I think this is something that our state should be hugely proud of,” said Holly Scott, tobacco prevention coordinator for Fargo Cass Public Health.

The high school smoking rate was in the 40 percent range in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Scott said.

By 2011, the percentage of high school students smoking had dropped to 19.4 percent. It was even lower in the Fargo area at 13.1 percent, Scott said.

“That’s enormous in terms of the amount of progress made,” she said.

Other states spending at least half of CDC’s recommended level are:

-- No. 3 Delaware, $8.3 million, 59.9 percent.

-- No. 4 Wyoming, $5.1 million, 56.7 percent.

-- No. 5 Hawaii, $7.9 million, 51.7 percent.

-- No. 6 Oklahoma, $22.7 million, 50.5 percent.

Minnesota is 12th in the nation, spending $21.3 million a year, or 36.4 percent of the funds recommended by CDC.

South Dakota follows at 13th, spending $4 million, or 35.4 percent of the CDC-recommended level.

In North Dakota, a 2008 voter-approved initiative requires the state to fund its tobacco prevention and cessation program at the CDC-recommended level.

North Dakota’s program has seen success. From 2009 to 2011, the state reduced smoking among high school students from 22.4 percent to 19.4 percent.

In 2012, North Dakota voters also overwhelmingly approved a smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.

The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

The states will collect $25 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.9 percent of it – $481.2 million – on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than 2 cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use, the report said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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