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Published December 14 2013

Forum editorial: Progress in tobacco cessation

North Dakota was recognized last week as leader among states meeting national standards for funding anti-smoking programs. It’s a welcome designation. Moreover, it’s more evidence the state is doing an excellent job with the resources it has to educate about the risks of smoking and secondhand smoke and provide programs to help smokers quit.

No thanks to the Legislature.

At nearly every turn in the smoking debate during the last decade, lawmakers, particularly those in the Republican majority, have done the bidding of the smoking lobby and hospitality industry. Lobbyists worked to scuttle statewide smoking curbs, and their legislative allies fell into line, despite clear indications that a majority of North Dakotans wanted a smoking ban. Indeed, several cities, large and small, were ahead of the Legislature in imposing smoking restrictions, most of them via the ballot.

As in the cities, it took the ballot box to spank the Legislature. Two measures did what the legislators refused to do. The first in 2008 established a tobacco prevention and cessation program funded in large part by tobacco lawsuit settlement money. The second passed by a landslide in 2012 with every county voting “yes.” It made all public places 100 percent smoke free.

Despite dire predictions from fans of poisoning their customers (it’s their “right,” you know), the sky did not fall on the bar scene or the hospitality sector. Instead, smoking levels among adults are down significantly. There is more work to do among the state’s youth, and that’s where education programs are focused.

It’s good news. It’s good for the state’s long term public health, which, in turn, is a plus for everything else in North Dakota.

An early gift from Oil Patch

The Forum’s editorial page cartoonists have different takes today on Amtrak delays and cancellations caused by BNSF oil trains on the main line through North Dakota. Half of the eastbound and westbound passenger trains on the Empire Builder route between Chicago and Seattle have been canceled. Others will be delayed or end at stops other than regular destinations.

How about that as a gift for holiday travelers who were counting on Amtrak? Amtrak says cold weather is a factor along with oil traffic. But winter happens every year. The service is rarely on time, but the oil-train disruption is a new wrinkle. It’s another one of those unforeseen consequences of oil “prosperity.”

Merry Christmas, travelers, from BNSF, Amtrak and the Oil Patch.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.