North Dakota Voters Reject Tobacco Tax Increase

Statement from Deb Knuth, North Dakota Government Relations Director with American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

November 9, 2016
Deb Knuth
ACS CAN Government Relations Director
[email protected]

Big Tobacco's Dirty Money and Misleading Measure 4 Ads Deceive Voters:  North Dakota Children and Veterans Become Real Losers

Bismarck- Thwarted by Big Tobacco's $3.7 million deceptive opposition campaign, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is disheartened that Measure 4 failed even though it would have saved an estimated 6,600 lives and prevented 5,800 kids from becoming addicted to tobacco.  Measure 4 also would have provided essential funding to help veterans.

Instead, North Dakota voters were deceived into voting to protect tobacco industry profits and as a result kids and veterans become the losers.  Taxpayers pay a price as well.  Measure 4 would have saved nearly $250 million annually in health care costs and generated an estimated $147 million per biennium in new revenue. 

An estimated 1,000 North Dakotans die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, which means the tobacco industry's victory is a tragedy for North Dakota.

Measure 4 would have raised the tax to $2.20 per pack on cigarettes and instituted a new tax rate of 56 percent of the wholesale purchase price on all other tobacco products including e-cigarettes.  Raising tobacco taxes is a proven way to prevent kids from ever starting, encourage current tobacco users to quit, and reduce health care costs.

North Dakota's tobacco tax has not been raised since 1993.  At just 44 cents per pack of cigarettes, it is ranked 47th in the nation for tobacco taxes - meaning only three states are lower.  In face, North Dakota's neighboring states all have cigarette tax rates higher than North Dakota.  This includes Montana ($1.70 per pack), South Dakota ($1.53 per pack) and Minnesota ($3.00 per pack).  

Nearly 300 North Dakota kids start smoking every year, and one-third of them will eventually die from tobacco-related disease.  Kids buy or smoke 1.4 million packs of cigarettes a year in the state.  Measure 4 would save lives and protect children and, of course, tobacco companies fiercely opposed the initiative because they knew it will cause people to quit smoking or never start - and that would cost them millions in profits.

In every state that has significantly raised its tobacco tax, the number of cigarette packs sold has declined.  According to the US Surgeon General, large tobacco tax increases are especially effective in reducing smoking among kids.

The new revenue generated by Measure 4 would have protected and provided funding for crucial, underfunded services for North Dakota Veterans and North Dakotans with chronic disease, substance abuse disorders, and mental health needs.

Alont with ACS CAN, the measure was supported by over 30 organizations including the ND Veterans Coordinating Council (consisting of the American Legion, VFW, Disabled Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, and AMVETS), American Lung Association, ND Medical Association, March of Dimes, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Mental Health of America of ND, and many more.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority.  ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard.  For more information, visit



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Media Contacts

Deb Knuth
ACS CAN North Dakota Government Relations Director