Letter to the editor: North Dakota fortunate to have BreathND
I am CEO of Minnesota’s tobacco prevention organization Clear-Way Minn. I am writing to urge North Dakota lawmakers to continue funding BreatheND.
After the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, there was much debate about how to use tobacco settlement payments. Health experts like C. Everett Koop argued they should fund smoking prevention and cessation services; however, most of the money was used by states for nonhealth purposes.
North Dakota and Minnesota are two exceptions. In North Dakota, the people themselves approved BreatheND when they created it through a ballot measure in 2008.
North Dakota is fortunate to have BreatheND. Not only are you using the settlement as intended, you are the only U.S. state currently funding tobacco prevention at the levels recommended by the CDC. By comparison, your neighbor states — even Minnesota - don’t come close. North Dakotans should be commended for this — and the last thing you should do is close the organization that is achieving it.
ClearWay Minnesota has been around longer than BreatheND, so we can illustrate what comes from a long-term investment in tobacco prevention. Since our creation in 1998, Minnesota has seen an eightpoint drop in our adult smoking rate. Research attributes our smoking declines to tobacco tax increases, smoke-free and other public policies, and quit-smoking programs. These initiatives are priorities for ClearWay Minnesota — and also for BreatheND.
Tobacco’s burden falls hard on everyone, whether smokers themselves, their families and friends, or everyone who absorbs the excess costs of smoking-related diseases. It’s hard to imagine an undertaking more beneficial than preventing smoking, and polls show that regardless of party, the people of our region strongly support initiatives to achieve this goal. BreatheND is helping to do just that.
I hope your elected leaders will agree: BreatheND is critical to the future health of your state.