Cigarette Taxes | VideoVan Tieu | 1/28/2013
A bill introduced by Democrat Representative Eliot Glassheim from Grand Forks to increase cigarette taxes by 56 cents a pack would bring in at least $15 million to the general fund annually. With the state fund at a surplus, others in the House are meeting it with opposition
"We certainly don`t need the revenue and to pick out this one group just to raise revenue is certainly something I don`t personally support," said Fargo Representative Wes Belter (R).
Why increase taxes? For Glassheim, it isn`t about raising money. He wants to provide financial incentives to quit smoking.
"My insurance policy is higher because of the 20 percent of people who smoke. Heart disease, cancer, higher expense items are covered by insurance because of people who smoke. So it`s not just a person`s own individual desire to smoke, but also the cost for the rest of us."
Medical claims related to smoking, costs North Dakota $442 million per year, according to the State Health Department.
"We certainly don`t want to encourage people to smoke, but I`m not sure raising the cigarette tax from 44 cents to, I believe, a dollar is going to change anybody`s habits," Belter said.
"But we`re trying to make incentives greater not to kill themselves and also not to cost the rest of us a lot of money in disease," Glassheim said.
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Every year, smoking kills more that 400,000 Americans. Each year in North Dakota, nearly 900 adults die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.