ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Tobacco tax hike measure approved for N.D. ballot in November

BISMARCK - North Dakota voters will decide in November whether to raise taxes on tobacco products for the first time since 1993, including a fivefold increase in the cigarette tax that sponsors of the ballot measure hope will motivate adults to q...

2735196+0Bwj2b69x1pLBLWpXZ1FjNk5iSVU.jpg

BISMARCK – North Dakota voters will decide in November whether to raise taxes on tobacco products for the first time since 1993, including a fivefold increase in the cigarette tax that sponsors of the ballot measure hope will motivate adults to quit smoking and prevent young people from starting.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Wednesday that 21,698 of the 22,840 signatures that sponsors submitted in early July were accepted as being qualified. Sponsors needed 13,452 signatures to place the proposed change in state law on the Nov. 8 ballot.

In addition to hiking the cigarette tax from 44 cents to $2.20 per pack, the measure also would increase the tax on other tobacco products – including liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes – from 28 percent to 56 percent of the wholesale purchase price.

Ten organizations partnering as the Raise it for Health North Dakota coalition are pushing the measure, including Tobacco Free North Dakota, the North Dakota Medical Association and the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council, which represents five military veteran groups.

Kristie Wolff, tobacco control manager for the American Lung Association in North Dakota, a coalition partner, said organizers are still planning the campaign. She declined to discuss their strategy but said it will be “very grassroots.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ll definitely be ramping up the education across the state” now that the measure is on the ballot, she said.

Backers estimate the tax hike would generate more than $50 million a year, which would be split between a community health trust fund and a new trust fund to support health care services and programs for military veterans.

North Dakota Retail Association President Mike Rud has said he expects the group will vigorously oppose the measure, saying supporters aren’t considering the impact on businesses and smokers. Rud couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Wolff said reduced smoking rates will save millions in health care costs annually, and the additional tax revenue will provide money for behavioral health services and other areas hurt by recent state budget cuts. But the biggest reason for the measure is to prevent children from starting to use tobacco, she said.

“This is about saving lives,” she said.

North Dakota’s current tobacco tax ranks 47th lowest among the states and hasn’t been increased since 1993, despite several attempts in the Legislature, including two failed bills last year that were strongly opposed by retailers and distributors.

Related Topics: AL JAEGERELECTION 2016
What To Read Next
A resolution looking to allow the legislature to consider work requirements on the newly expanded Medicaid program is one step closer to the 2024 ballot.
With HB 1205, Reps Mike Lefor and Vicky Steiner would prohibit "sexually explicit content" in public libraries. Facing an uphill battle, the pair remain united in their commitment to see it passed.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
City accountant reports increases in oil impact, sales tax, hospitality tax and occupancy tax revenue during the Jan. 24 meeting, commission approves two policy amendments.