North Dakota Measure Would Increase Tobacco Tax by 400%

As of July 2016, only three states in the U.S. had lower tobacco tax rates than North Dakota's $0.44 per pack (Georgia with $0.37 per pack, Virginia with $0.30, and Missouri with $0.17).

The upcoming elections could bring major changes to tobacco taxes for North Dakota residents. If the proposed “Measure 4” initiative passes in November, the tax on cigarettes would spike 400%, soaring from $0.44 to $2.20, and effectively erasing the state’s reputation for historically having some of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the nation. In addition to the higher cigarette tax, the tax on all other tobacco products would increase to 56% of the wholesale price—double the current rate. This new provision would incorporate electronic cigarettes, as the definition of “tobacco products” would expand to include liquid nicotine and electronic inhalation devices.

Proponents of Measure 4 hope that the tax increases will help to reduce the smoking rate in North Dakota by 20%. Proponents believe a “yes” vote will also funnel the generated tax revenue to fund veteran services and health programs, such as behavioral health services and public clinics throughout the state. Supporters of this ballot measure include the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council, the American Lung Association in North Dakota, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

However, opponents of the initiative say that the language in the proposal is too vague to actually know where the funds will be spent and would amount to a risky “blank check” for North Dakota politicians. Those urging a “no” vote include Mike Rud, the North Dakota Retail Association president, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.

The full text of Measure 4 can be found here.

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