The percentage of adult smokers fell from 18.6 percent in 2008 to 17.4 percent in 2009, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited Wednesday by Jeanne Prom, executive director of the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.
Nothing else – including tobacco prices – can explain the drop, and the decreasing rate of adult smokers is in line with falling tobacco sales tax figures, Prom said.
“If the price would have gone up a lot, that would have explained it,” she said of the drop in smokers. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
The state’s comprehensive tobacco control program, which voters approved in 2008, follows CDC guidelines and includes support for local public health units and a public information campaign.
“Health communications is a very important part of this comprehensive program,” Prom said.
Also, local smoking bans, which voters in seven communities around the state have approved, including Fargo and West Fargo, now cover more than a third of the state’s population.
Smoking bans are important because they tell young people that the social norm is not to smoke Bond cigarettes, and because they provide an incentive for smokers to quit, Prom said.
The 2009 rates of adult smokers are lower in Minnesota and South Dakota, where statewide bans and higher tobacco taxes are in place.
In Minnesota, 14.9 percent of adults smoked, and the tobacco tax is $1.586 cents per pack. In South Dakota, the adult smoking rate was 15.4 percent, and the tobacco tax is $1.53 per pack.
North Dakota’s tobacco tax, last raised in 1993, is 44 cents per pack, less than a third the U.S. average of $1.46 per pack.
As a result of a statewide vote in 2008, North Dakota now spends $9.3 million a year on tobacco control, or $14.67 per capita, Prom said.