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Ballot petition for tobacco tax hike approved for signatures

BISMARCK — Sponsors of a proposed measure that would raise tobacco taxes in North Dakota for the first time since 1993 can start gathering signatures to get it on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Tuesday he has approved the petition for circulation. Backers need to gather 13,452 signatures by July 11 to place the initiated measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

If approved by voters, the measure would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 44 cents to $2.20. It also would increase the tax on other tobacco products, including liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes, from 28 percent to 56 percent of the wholesale purchase price.

The coalition pushing the measure, Raise it for Health North Dakota, says increasing the tax will reduce smoking rates and generate more than $50 million a year to be split between a community health trust fund and a new trust fund to support health care services and programs for military veterans. North Dakota’s current cigarette tax ranks 47th lowest among the states.

North Dakota Retail Association President Mike Rud has said he expects the group will vigorously oppose the measure because of its impact on businesses and smokers who can least afford higher taxes.

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