More North Dakotans hope to kick the habitThe number of North Dakotans who signed up for help in quitting smoking has jumped more than 80 percent since voters established a new agency to fight tobacco use, its director said Thursday.
By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press
BISMARCK – The number of North Dakotans who signed up for help in quitting smoking has jumped more than 80 percent since voters established a new agency to fight tobacco use, its director said Thursday.
The cities of Grand Forks and Napoleon have approved local ordinances to ban smoking in public workplaces, said Jeanne Prom, director of the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy. The cities of Fargo and West Fargo approved similar restrictions earlier.
Lake Region State College, in Devils Lake, and a federal vocational job training center in Minot have banned tobacco use, and Dakota College in Bottineau will do so next month, she said.
Prom said the developments followed North Dakota voters’ approval in November 2008 of a ballot measure that pushed the Legislature to establish the center and finance it with a portion of the state’s share of a national lawsuit settlement against the nation’s largest tobacco companies.
Lawmakers subsequently approved a two-year, $12.8 million budget for the center, of which about $6 million has been distributed as grants to local public health agencies.
“Some of those (tobacco restrictions) may have occurred organically, but we are really promoting them to happen more quickly, rather than just leaving it up to the passage of lots of time,” she said at a news conference Tuesday.
Prom and Beth Hughes, who is chairwoman of an executive committee that oversees the agency, said local health agencies have used the money to push for greater use of a toll-free “quit line” for tobacco users, and to support tobacco bans in public workplaces and school facilities.
North Dakota law already bars smoking in most public workplaces, but it is allowed in bars and enclosed areas of truck stops. The Legislature has rejected attempts to expand smoking restrictions since they were initially approved in 2005.
Before the voter initiative was approved, about 1,300 people enrolled yearly in the state’s “quit line” program, which offers free counseling and a two-month supply of nicotine gum, patches or lozenges.
The center has devoted almost $1 million to grants to encourage tobacco users to take advantage of the service, and the annual number of people who sign up has risen to more than 2,300, Prom said. About one-third of those people have been able to quit using tobacco for at least a year, she said.
“We are still seeing a very good rate of people who quit and stay quit,” she said.