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Viewpoint: Optimists right, pessimists wrong about Minnesota tobacco tax

By now, Herald readers all have heard about Measure 4, which would increase the price of tobacco products in North Dakota. No doubt they've heard from advocates, lawmakers and the billion-dollar special interest lobby that sells and markets tobacco products.

From across the border in Minnesota, I'd like to share with readers our firsthand experience of raising the price of tobacco. In 2013, our Legislature proposed a $1.60 per-pack tax increase on cigarettes. The proposal was debated inside and outside the Capitol, and in the end, lawmakers agreed with a majority of residents that the health benefits outweighed the benefits to special interests and the tobacco industry.

Since then, we've seen record low smoking rates among both adults and young people. In fact, there has been a 40 percent decrease among students who smoke since Minnesota's tobacco tax was passed in 2013.

Minnesota's adult rate dropped to a new low of 14.4 percent, and 60 percent of adult smokers who quit after the tax said that the price increase helped them stay smoke-free.

Who would oppose a measure with such undeniable health benefits? The national tobacco industry lobby. They've descended on Bismarck like they did on St. Paul, spending millions to protect their future profits.

The future of their business relies on addicting our kids to their deadly products.

Minnesota stood up to Big Tobacco, and now North Dakota can, too. Vote Yes on Measure 4. It will mean a healthier future for all North Dakotans.

Andrea Mowery

Bloomington, Minn.

Mowery is vice president of ClearWay Minnesota, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco use.