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Letter: Big Tobacco spreading lies in North Dakota

The United States' largest tobacco company, Altria, has spent $2.5 million to buy your vote.

Who is Altria? In 2003, Philip Morris changed its name to Altria due to negative publicity after decades of marketing to kids, and deceiving the public.

Big Tobacco opposes tobacco tax increases, arguing they do not reduce smoking. Contrarily, the companies' own internal documents, disclosed in tobacco lawsuits, show their deceit. Raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among kids. That's why they spend millions trying to fight tobacco tax increases.

It is laughable that tobacco companies feign concern for funding programs to reduce tobacco use given they spend $34.2 million annually to market their products in North Dakota. Big Tobacco's ads highlight the 400 percent increase, but make no mention that it is a tax on tobacco products only, that the tax hasn't been increased since 1993, nor the fact that tobacco-related illnesses cost North Dakota taxpayers $326 million every year, including nearly $57 million in Medicaid costs.

Get the facts. Big Tobacco is spreading their lies not only in North Dakota, but Colorado and California as well, states seeking similar increases on the ballot this November, and spending more than $56 million, and counting, to do it. Considering net profits for Altria were $5.2 billion in 2015, their interest and motivation to "hook" and "addict" kids is very clear.

The real question for North Dakotans is who do you trust? Big Tobacco? Or organizations like the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes and our honorable veteran community? Voters should reject the industry's lies and vote yes on Measure 4.

Radke lives in Loveland, Colo.