Letter to the editor: North Dakota needs to increase its cigarette tax
Minnesota just raised its cigarette tax by $1.60 per pack, leaving me in envy of our neighbor's efforts to help people quit smoking.
High cigarette prices, and noticeable price hikes like Minnesota's recent increase, prevent young people from getting hooked and help current smokers to kick the habit. That's good. One in three who try cigarettes get addicted, and a majority of those who smoke want to quit. A high tobacco tax is an effective health policy; kudos to Minnesota's elected leadership for recognizing that and investing in this prevention strategy.
By contrast, North Dakota ranks as one of the "best" states for cheap tobacco. North Dakota's tobacco tax is outrageously low at a mere 44 cents per pack -- the 46th lowest cigarette tax in the nation. Across the river, Minnesota's cigarette tax is the sixth highest at $2.83 per pack. Is "cheap tobacco" the policy North Dakota wants for its children? From my perspective as a public health advocate and mom, no. North Dakota needs to take action to significantly increase the price of tobacco here. It'd be the first time since 1993.
I love North Dakota, but not the current price of our cigarettes. In addition to its tobacco tax, sometimes I also envy Minnesota for its trees -- when the wind blows we have few to stop it. But we're proactive and plant trees for the immediate and long-term benefits they provide. For the same reasons, raise North Dakota's tobacco tax -- and the sooner the better.