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Money speaks louder than health

I would like to commend our North Dakota legislators who voted in support of BreatheND. Lawmakers had some of the strongest push back from SB 2024 than any other bill presented this session. Hours of testimony applauding the agencies successes, emails, calls, and letters to the editors could not sway most legislators.

Being debated by legislators was the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund. This fund had previously been designated for tobacco prevention - by a vote of the people - in 2008. The remaining fund would have continued tobacco prevention efforts for seven more years with the goal to continue driving our youth use rates into the low single digits and nearly eliminate the problem of tobacco among our youth. These tobacco settlement dollars were being used for the intended purpose of preventing kids from ever starting to use tobacco. And not one single dollar is from taxpayer funds.

Unfortunately, money speaks louder than health and BreatheND was given a $0 appropriation and an amendment which gives money to the Department of Health for tobacco and other projects yet to be determined. The funds are being taken away from BreatheND - a small, accountable agency that is highly efficient, successful and laser focused on reducing tobacco use.

This was a brazen money grab considering North Dakota government has profited significantly from big tobacco. To date, the state has received approximately $526.5 million from the tobacco settlement. More than 77 percent of the tobacco settlement dollars have gone to the Water Development Trust Fund, Common Schools Trust Fund, and the Community Health Trust Fund. The Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust fund, used solely for tobacco prevention efforts, received a little over 22 percent or $105.6 million.

Dissolving BreatheND is in direct disregard to the vote of the people of North Dakota. Following personal agendas and party line votes is not the task we have entrusted our representatives with.

Theresa Tucker Lehman

West Fargo