N.D. high school junior will have voice in state’s tobacco policyWhen former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp was helping to draft a ballot measure to increase state support for anti-tobacco projects, she insisted that someone younger than 21 be included on the initiative’s oversight board.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — When former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp was helping to draft a ballot measure to increase state support for anti-tobacco projects, she insisted that someone younger than 21 be included on the initiative’s oversight board.
That person is Nathan Marion, a junior at Bismarck St. Mary’s High School, who is one of nine people whom Gov. John Hoeven appointed to a state tobacco prevention advisory panel that was created when North Dakotans approved Measure 3 last month.
“I have a lot of time that I can invest in this. It’s something that I feel passionate about,” Marion said. “As much as I can do, I’m going to.”
The board will be responsible for developing a comprehensive statewide plan to cut down on tobacco use in North Dakota. It will be financed by a portion of the state’s income from a 1998 lawsuit settlement against the nation’s largest tobacco companies.
Marion, who turns 17 next month, will have a voice in allocating money for the plan, which could total more than $18.6 million every two years.
“Right now, it’s about taking small steps,” he said. “I think that this committee is really a great way to start it off, just educating people about the effects of (tobacco), and then helping those who already are using tobacco.”
Marion is active in a St. Mary’s group that discourages tobacco use, and became involved in campaigning for Measure 3 last spring, when members of the high school group were invited to a news conference to announce the petition campaign.
Marion said he is motivated by his job as a host at a Bismarck restaurant, and by the smoking-related death of his grandfather, who died of lung cancer.
North Dakota law bars smoking in restaurants, but smokers sometimes gather outside the establishment’s front door, near where Marion waits to greet customers.
“People come in and the smoke just pours in,” he said. “I see how much smoking really impacts society, and so I thought I would do my part just to try to better North Dakota.”
Marion’s parents do not smoke, and he said he has never considered using tobacco. “The whole aspect of it just disgusted me,” he said.
Heitkamp said much of the state’s anti-tobacco efforts are aimed at young people, and she said it was important to consider their views about which approaches work best.
“We get a bunch of old people in a room to talk about what’s going to move kids,” she said. “We’re like scolders or finger-waggers. A lot of times kids come up with the best ideas. They know what’s going to work and what isn’t going to work with their peers.”