By DALE WETZEL Associated Press , The Associated Press – BISMARCK, N.D.
Increased spending on anti-tobacco efforts has resulted in less smoking, although the slow decline in the number of adult smokers is “not very impressive,” the director of North Dakota’s tobacco control agency said Tuesday.
Jeanne Prom credited a North Dakota ballot initiative, which voters approved in November 2008, and a subsequent increase in state money spent on tobacco control efforts with an increase in the number of North Dakota college and public school campuses where tobacco use is banned.
Surveys indicated about 17.4 percent of North Dakota adults smoked in 2010, a decrease from 18.1 percent in 2008, Prom said in a presentation to the North Dakota Legislature’s Health Services Committee. The panel is monitoring the effectiveness of increased state spending on anti-tobacco programs.
Two surveys of youth smoking showed a decline from 21.1 percent in 2007 to 19.4 percent in 2011.
The drop in adult smoking rates, Prom said, “is still not very impressive.”
“We’d like to see that at 1 percent,” or at least in the single digits, she said.
The panel’s chairman, Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, said bar graphs Prom used to accompany her presentation were formatted to exaggerate the significance of the smoking decline.
“It looks like it’s such a dramatic decrease, and 18.1 (percent) to 17.4 is still point seven,” Lee said of the dip in adult smoking.
The 2008 ballot measure ordered that a portion of the money being paid to North Dakota by the nation’s largest tobacco companies be spent on tobacco control.
The payments are the result of the settlement of a lawsuit against the companies to recoup taxpayers’ costs for treating smoking-related diseases.
The ballot initiative established a new state agency, the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, to administer the money. Prom is the center’s director.
Since then, spending on a comprehensive statewide tobacco control program has jumped from $4.9 million to $9.5 million, budget documents show. State aid for local public health agencies has risen from $2.35 million to $3.8 million.
Since July 2009, the number of local schools that have banned tobacco from their grounds has jumped from 60 to 102, the policy center says.
The number of college campuses that have taken the step has risen from seven to 12, and the cities of Bismarck, Devils Lake, Grand Forks, Napoleon and Pembina have approved anti-smoking ordinances that ban smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars. The ordinances override state law, which allows smoking in bars.
“Evidence indicates that implementing polices that promote healthy social norms appear to be the most effective” in coaxing smokers to quit and to remain tobacco-free, Prom said.
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