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LETTER: Don't look to Big Tobacco for tobacco truths

America's largest tobacco company, Altria, has spent more than $2.5 million to buy your vote.

Who is Altria? In 2003, Philip Morris changed its name to Altria because of negative publicity after decades of marketing to kids and deceiving the public.

Big Tobacco opposes tobacco tax increases, arguing the increases do not reduce smoking. Contrarily, the industry's own internal documents, disclosed in tobacco lawsuits, show its deceit.

Raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among kids.

That's why the companies spend millions trying to fight tobacco tax increases. It's laughable that they feign concern for tobacco-prevention funding, given that they spend $34.2 million a year on marketing their products in North Dakota.

Big Tobacco's ads highlight Measure 4's proposed 400 percent tax increase, but make no mention that it is a tax on tobacco products only, that the tax hasn't been increased since 1993 and that tobacco-related illnesses cost North Dakota taxpayers $326 million a year, including nearly $57 million in Medicaid costs.

Get the facts. Big Tobacco is spreading its lies not only in North Dakota, but also in Colorado and California (which have similar increases on their November ballots) and is spending north of $56 million to do it.

Considering that net profits for Altria were $5.2 billion in 2015, the industry's interest in hooking and addicting kids is clear.

The real question for North Dakotans is, who do you trust: Big Tobacco? Or organizations such as the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and the American Legion?

Reject the industry's lies. Vote yes on Measure 4.

Jodi Radke

Loveland, Colo.

Radke works for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as director of the region that includes North Dakota.

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