There is good news in the war against tobacco use: North Dakota is winning.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said last week that North Dakota is the only state spending at levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on tobacco cessation programs. That level is 50 percent of funds designated from the 1998 tobacco settlement lawsuits.
But it’s about more than spending dollars where they were meant to be spent. It’s about results, and on that score North Dakota is a leader. For example, a portion of the money was spent to fund a study of secondhand smoke’s effects in Grand Forks, the results of which were pivotal in that city passing a 2010 law that outlawed smoking in bars, casinos and truck stops. Several North Dakota cities, using information compiled locally and by the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, easily approved ordinances directed at ending secondhand smoke in public places and businesses. Most of the cities were ahead of a Legislature that remained in the thrall of the state’s tobacco lobby, and it took a 2012 ballot measure to impose statewide restrictions on smoking and secondhand smoke.
There has been some grousing and whining about how tobacco settlement money is being spent in North Dakota. It’s come mostly from special interests that lost the tobacco cessation battle years ago. They were wrong then and are wrong now about the effects of the expenditures. For example, during the time that education and public service efforts were ratcheted up, smoking among youths plunged to 11.7 percent this year after hovering at about 20 percent the eight previous years.
Anti-tobacco programs work. The statistics are unambiguous. Tobacco settlement money has been well-spent in North Dakota, and the CDC and others recognize the state’s success. That’s good news.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board