Breathe ND gets snuffed out

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, more commonly known as Breathe ND, is closing.

The state legislature voted to defund the center during the last legislative session, but the state still has tobacco prevention work to do.

The Department of Health will be tasked with doing the same job as Breathe N-D, but says they'll have to do so with about half the funding and about a third fewer employees.

At the Breathe ND office, Director Jeanne Prom is trying to end her work on a high note.

"We've continued to work on our state work plan and our state plan to continue to provide the services to North Dakota that we're expected to provide through June 30th, so in many ways it's been business as usual," says Prom.

Starting July 1, Breathe ND is snuffed out and tobacco prevention programming moves to the state Department of Health.

"It's not too strange of a process for us. It's just a matter of organizing who's going to be doing what and making sure we have the funding out at the right areas," said Neil Charvat, NDDoH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program director.

Before the inception of Breathe ND, the cigarette smoking rates in high school students remained about steady while smokeless tobacco rates actually went up. Prom is concerned without this program, North Dakota could revert back to those trends.

"My concern is that the progress that we made will slowly be eroded if there isn't a strong tobacco control program," said Prom.

"We need to keep up on this and this is something we're not going to let slide. This is all related to best practice, engaging youth, and protecting people from second hand smoke and helping people quit is all part of what we do here," said Charvat.

Prom says as long as tobacco companies keep marketing to children, the Department of Health's job will only get harder.

Breathe ND was created through an initiated measure in 2008.
Lawmakers argued defunding the center would allow them to more efficiently fund public health during the state's budget crunch.