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Letter to the editor: It’s time for N.D. to raise cost of tobacco products

North Dakota recently unveiled newly designed license plates that will be used and distributed over the coming months and years.

The total cost to the taxpayers of North Dakota for this update was $7 million. The last time the license plate was changed was more than two decades ago.

During the 63rd Legislative Assembly in 2013, North Dakota lawmakers also passed a bill that increased fees for many hunting and fishing licenses. This legislation passed with overwhelming support from legislators, hunters and anglers. This was the first comprehensive license fee adjustment in nearly two decades.

Do you know what else in our state hasn’t been updated in the last two decades? The cost of tobacco products. One of the best ways to prevent young people from entering a life of tobacco addiction — something nearly everyone (except the tobacco industry, of course) can agree is a good thing — is to make the product more expensive.

Does the North Dakota Legislature agree that our state’s tobacco tax of 44 cents per pack — the 46th lowest in the nation — is also outdated?

The effects of North Dakotans’ tobacco use also impacts the wallets of those who don’t use tobacco. North Dakota’s annual health care costs directly caused by smoking is $326 million. The portion covered by state Medicaid is $47 million.

As the price of tobacco increases, more people quit, and fewer young people start the addiction.

If it was time to update our state’s license plates to the tune of $7 million and raise the fees on hunting and fishing at the expense of the taxpayers, I think it’s time to engage in the long overdue discussion about the costs of cheap tobacco to the health of our state.