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Jessica Hoppe, Horace, N.D., Published June 29 2013

Letter: ND tobacco tax should be raised

As the mother of a 14- and 10-year-old, I would like to commend Minnesota on its July 1 tobacco tax increase of $1.60, and I certainly hope North Dakota will step it up and follow soon.

Sadly, the tobacco tax in North Dakota is one of the lowest in the country, and at 44 cents a pack, North Dakota gets a big red “F,” according to the 2013 State of Tobacco Control report card. For a state with so much pride, how is it we will settle for this?

The negative health consequences and costs of tobacco are well documented. According to BCBSND, the annual health care costs that are directly caused by smoking total $247 million in North Dakota alone, and the state and federal smoking-related tax burden is $571 per household (yes, even those that are smoke-free). Cheap tobacco is certainly not the health standard we want for North Dakota, is it?

The merits of a tax increase speak loud and clear: According to the American Lung Association, every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4 percent among adults and 7 percent among youth. It is also known that each day, 3,800 kids try their first cigarette and in North Dakota alone, the tobacco industry spends more than $150 million annually to encourage new addictions and maintain old ones.

Further, raising the price of tobacco is the most effective way to reduce youth tobacco rates. I get that it’s very difficult to quit smoking and many bravely try to quit every day. It just seems logical to me that we should also make it just as difficult to start.