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ND Top-Ranked in Protecting Kids from Tobacco Use

North Dakota leads the nation in committing funds for programs to prevent kids and adults from smoking. (American Cancer Society)
North Dakota leads the nation in committing funds for programs to prevent kids and adults from smoking. (American Cancer Society)
January 11, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota's efforts are leading the nation to keep kids away from tobacco and help those that do smoke, quit. A national report lists North Dakota as one of only two states in the country that funds tobacco prevention and cessation programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Donna Thronson, the health communications coordinator with the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, known as "Breathe N-D," says they work with people at the local level.

"We fund local public health units across the state to do community intervention on tobacco prevention," she explained. "They go into schools, and build comprehensive tobacco-free policies. And our work is never done, because you know, with the introduction of e-cigarettes, they had to go in and update all the policies."

North Dakota will collect almost $67 million this year from the 1998 state Tobacco Master Settlement, and will spend almost 15 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.

While 15 percent may not sound like much, most states divert all their federal tobacco-settlement money for other purposes. Thronson says North Dakota plans to continue its investment in keeping people from becoming tobacco users.

"The rest of the payments that come in, to the tune of a half-billion dollars, are payments that will continue in perpetuity," she said. "So, these funds we have were never designated for anything but tobacco prevention."

Outgoing Gov. Jack Dalrymple had wanted to eliminate the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy and divert its funding, and it's unclear what Gov. Doug Burgum's plans are for the center. But Thronson warns that cutting spending would ramp up health care costs, significantly.

"If you want to address health-care costs, you can't do that without addressing the problem of tobacco," she added. "Because tobacco costs our state $326 million in health-care costs alone each year, and $56 million in Medicaid expenses."

North Dakota's top ranking is in a report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - ND