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LETTER: Vote No on Measure 4

I feel that I must speak out in opposition to Measure 4, the initiated measure that would quintuple the tobacco tax in North Dakota. It is a noble goal to see smoking reduced in our state, but this isn't the way to do it. It may get a small perce...

 

I feel that I must speak out in opposition to Measure 4, the initiated measure that would quintuple the tobacco tax in North Dakota.  It is a noble goal to see smoking reduced in our state, but this isn't the way to do it.  It may get a small percentage of the populace to give up cigarettes, but at a hefty price.

If this measure passes, the price of a package of cigarettes will increase $1.76.  This equates to $54.56 per month for a pack a day smoker or $109.12 for a two pack a day smoker.  It is well known that the incidence of tobacco use is highest among the lowest income.  If we take a typical individual who makes $15,000 per year and smokes a pack a day, he will still continue to smoke despite the higher tax.  But this individual typically will clear about $1000 per month after taxes. Out of that, he needs to pay rent, food, utilities, auto expense, and medical care.  Cut his income by $55 per month for tobacco tax, there will be a lot of people who will fall behind on their rent, avoid paying utilities for the month, or decide not to see a doctor.

Clearly the tobacco tax increase would make little difference to someone making $100,000 per year but falls disproportionately on the people who can least afford it.  This is perhaps the most regressive tax increase that could be inflicted on North Dakota.  

Full disclosure-I don't smoke (never have) and have lost family members to cancer and lung disease.  But this measure goes beyond discouraging smoking.  Perhaps a small tobacco tax increase can be looked at by the Legislature, if warranted.  But Measure 4 is not the way to curb tobacco use.  Find another way.  Vote No on Measure 4.

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