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Letter to the Editor: Dispelling myths related to the tobacco prevention program

After reading Senator Judy Lee's letter, I feel the need to set the record straight regarding the new Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.

The Center is a state agency just like any other state agency and is structured like many of the other 140-plus boards and commissions operating under North Dakota State Law. The agency is led by a nine-member advisory board appointed by the Governor and consists of experts in tobacco prevention and public health - physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and public health.

The Center is subject to more rigorous reporting and accountability standards than most state agencies. The Center is required by law to implement tobacco prevention and control programs in compliance with Centers for Disease Control best practices and provide a detailed progress and expenditure report to the interim Budget Section every three months. In keeping with national research and best practices, the Center has been removed from the direct political process to remove future attempts by the tobacco industry to subvert its mission through lobbying.

Despite the assertions in Senator Lee's letter, the measure language was widely circulated among many state agencies and organizations including the Health Department and the Governor's office for input prior to being submitted to the Secretary of State to approve for circulation. The initiated measure was also subjected to a legislative hearing prior to the election and several more since.

Measure 3 directed that the Center and its programs be funded by a small percentage of the tobacco settlement dollars - not state tax dollars. The programs we have put in place are working. Quitline utilization is up and cigarette sales are down by 3 million packs since 2007.

If the legislature in any way overturns or subverts Measure 3, there will be no guaranteed use of tobacco settlement dollars for a comprehensive tobacco prevention program. North Dakota youth smoking rates will continue to remain above the national average. And all North Dakota families will continue to pay the price of tobacco-related illness and death.

Now more than ever, North Dakota legislators should not be ignoring the vote of the people and keep this vital tobacco prevention program intact.

Theresa Will

Chair Tobacco Prevention

and Control Executive Committee

Valley City, N.D.