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Cigarette taxes rise after petition drive

BISMARCK—A coalition seeking to put the choice before voters this fall to raise the state's tobacco tax will announce the results of their petition signature gathering efforts Thursday in Bismarck.

The Raise it for Health North Dakota group's statutory initiative requires 13,452 legitimate signatures to be submitted by the end of Monday to be eligible for the ballot.

A 10 a.m. press conference in Memorial Hall inside the state Capitol is planned.

Efforts to gather signatures for the tobacco measure began in mid-March. Kristie Wolff, with the American Lung Association in North Dakota, recently said the group was pushing for 18,000 signatures.

The measure would increase the tobacco tax for cigarettes in North Dakota from 44 cents per pack to $2.20. Taxes on liquid nicotine products would be increased from 28 percent of the wholesale purchase price to 56 percent.

The national average tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.61. Only Georgia, Missouri and Virginia have lower tobacco taxes than North Dakota. The tobacco tax in North Dakota hasn't been raised since 1993.

New tax revenues generated by the tax, if approved by voters Nov. 8, would be split between health-related programs and a new tobacco trust fund for veterans.

No organized opposition has yet come out against the proposed measure.

The tobacco group would be the second of four groups to submit petitions; a victim's rights measure already has been submitted and approved for the general election ballot.

A medical marijuana initiative and a separate measure that would legalize marijuana are still gathering signatures.

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