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Ex-Tobacco users want BreatheND to stay

I started smoking when I was 13, and was a two-pack-a-day smoker for many years. I watched both my grandfathers die from smoking, and several aunts and uncles. Last year I had part of my left lung removed after recurring lung disease. Quitting smoking was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I don't want any North Dakota youth to have to live through my experiences with tobacco. The best way to prevent that is through comprehensive youth tobacco prevention programs.

So, you can understand why it concerns me so much that the North Dakota House of Representatives is considering eliminating BreatheND. This agency has been very successful in their mission to reduce youth smoking because they are solely focused on tobacco prevention and they address it on many different levels.

Proposed legislation would transfer money to the North Dakota Health Department, and while this department has done a fine job with about 100 programs it oversees, it would not be focused on the specific mission of preventing young people from using tobacco.

BreatheND is also funded from a very small percentage of the tobacco settlement, which is how that money was intended to be used. If the House eliminates BreatheND, an even smaller percentage of this money will be used for tobacco prevention. It wouldn't even be enough to meet CDC's standards.

I encourage my fellow North Dakotans to ask their representatives to retain BreatheND for the current and future well-being of our citizens.

Michael Simonson

Bismarck, N.D.