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Wendy Reuer, Published September 01 2010

Group aims for $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes

A Fargo-based group plans to push for the North Dakota Legislature to pass a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes in the near future.

The group, Smoke-Free for Everyone (SAFE) Coalition, held a forum Tuesday to thank legislators for their support of Measure 3 in the past.

Measure 3 was approved by North Dakota voters to establish and fund statewide tobacco prevention and control programs. SAFE and other groups have used the Measure 3 money to push for smoke-free ordinances in cities such as Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Napoleon and most recently Bismarck.

But now, SAFE is hoping to go even further, with its Saving Lives – Saving Money initiative.

The No. 1 objective of the Saving Lives program is to implement a $2-per-pack excise tax by 2013, although even sooner would be better for some SAFE members.

The current state tax is 44 cents per pack. The money generated from a tax would be put into the general fund and used to offset healthcare costs for smokers.

Jay Taylor, respiratory therapist at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, said if legislators could do it by next session, they’d certainly have his vote.

Although some lawmakers don’t oppose upping the tax on cigarettes, a full $2 may be pushing it.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to bounce it up to $2, but we can try,” said North Dakota Sen. Carolyn Nelson,

D-Fargo.

Rep. Don Clark, R-Fargo, agreed with Nelson that $2 could push the limits, but a tax increase was certainly feasible in the near future although the amount of Minnesota smokers coming to North Dakota to buy cigarettes at a lower cost is hard to ignore.

Joanie Pesek works as a bar blackjack dealer to supplement her income. Pesek said although there was a fear of bars going smoke-free in the area, it hasn’t been harmful to business.

SAFE also hopes to implement 100 percent smoke-free public places and increase the number of school districts with a comprehensive Tobacco-Free School policy in the next five years. SAFE also aims to increase use of the statewide Quitline, which assists with quitting smoking.

By Wendy Reuer

wreuer@forumcomm.com

A Fargo-based group plans to push for the North Dakota Legislature to pass a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes in the near future.

The group, Smoke-Free for Everyone (SAFE) Coalition, held a forum Tuesday to thank legislators for their support of Measure 3 in the past.

Measure 3 was approved by North Dakota voters to establish and fund statewide tobacco prevention and control programs. SAFE and other groups have used the Measure 3 money to push for smoke-free ordinances in cities such as Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Napoleon and most recently Bismarck.

But now, SAFE is hoping to go even further, with its Saving Lives – Saving Money initiative.

The No. 1 objective of the Saving Lives program is to implement a $2-per-pack excise tax by 2013, although even sooner would be better for some SAFE members.

The current state tax is 44 cents per pack. The money generated from a tax would be put into the general fund and used to offset healthcare costs for smokers.

Jay Taylor, respiratory therapist at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, said if legislators could do it by next session, they’d certainly have his vote.

Although some lawmakers don’t oppose upping the tax on cigarettes, a full $2 may be pushing it.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to bounce it up to $2, but we can try,” said North Dakota Sen. Carolyn Nelson,

D-Fargo.

Rep. Don Clark, R-Fargo, agreed with Nelson that $2 could push the limits, but a tax increase was certainly feasible in the near future although the amount of Minnesota smokers coming to North Dakota to buy cigarettes at a lower cost is hard to ignore.

Joanie Pesek works as a bar blackjack dealer to supplement her income. Pesek said although there was a fear of bars going smoke-free in the area, it hasn’t been harmful to business.

SAFE also hopes to implement 100 percent smoke-free public places and increase the number of school districts with a comprehensive Tobacco-Free School policy in the next five years. SAFE also aims to increase use of the statewide Quitline, which assists with quitting smoking.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530