WATCH: Big tobacco companies fighting Measure 4
Measure 4 advertisements are everywhere, but do you know who's funding the ad war?
Early voting is on in our area, and every day this week we will break down some of the laws that you'll get to decide.Today it's Measure 4, the proposed tax hike on tobacco products in North Dakota.
Measure 4 is the 400% increase on the tobacco tax in North Dakota, but the fight over the airwaves has been a dramatically one sided battle.
You've probably seen the commercials, but do you know who's paying them?
Jared Shceeler, North Dakotans against 400% tax increase: “I don't know where the money comes from. I don't know how much money is in the coffers. But, you know I do have to imagine that, the manufactures of tobacco products are probably funding part of that.”
A big part. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company has kicked in almost a million dollars to the 'vote no on measure 4' movement. And Altria - renamed from Philip Morris, one of the world's largest tobacco producers - kicked in nearly $2.5 million.
Dr. Eric Johnson, Raise It for Health ND: “It's always tough fighting uphill against the tobacco company. They have a lot of money.”
Johnson says Raise it for Health ND, the group advocating for the higher tobacco tax, says they have raised around $50,000, all from North Dakota based organizations. Even though they are dramatically outmatched in advertisement dollars Johnson says they still have a shot.
Dr. Johnson: “I think North Dakota voters kind of see through this. And they realize large corporations like these tobacco companies really don't have anything invested in North Dakota other than sales.”
Scheeler: “I think it's natural that the tobacco manufactures are wanting to defend their own livelihood. This is the business that they're in. But, at the end of the day, the fact that this is so poorly written and lacks accountability, to me it's not even about smoking anymore.”
One of the most contested points is that tax money generated from Measure 4 will be, what some are calling, a blank check for the state government to spend at will.
That's only partly true. An estimated $70 million will be in the hands of an administrative committee on veterans' affairs. The measure doesn't say specifically how that money will be spent, but it does say there must be a plan in place by 3 member board that will be appointed by the governor. The vote yes campaign says veterans groups have a list of more than 40 programs on which they would use the money.
On your ballot with Measure 4, a ‘yes’ vote will be a vote to increase taxes 400% on tobacco products. A ‘no’ vote will keep tobacco prices where they are now.