The harm and destruction caused from tobacco continues to be the leading cause of premature death and disease in our country. It is with that in mind that we take seriously efforts to reduce this tremendous toll across North Dakota and assure that resources are used wisely based on the decades of science-proving effective strategies.
We know that by reducing the number of smokers and future smokers, we can make huge impacts in the harm and destruction caused by tobacco which includes health care costs that we all pay.
In a recent letter regarding tobacco prevention programs in North Dakota, the author criticizes current media messaging around the cost of tobacco to all residents and offers solutions that are not based on science.
Best Practices in Tobacco Control provided by the Centers for Disease Control include a strong media campaign that educates the public about the health hazards of exposure to secondhand smoke, the real cost of the use of tobacco for all citizens and counter marketing.
The current commercial did the job in getting the attention of the viewer by using theatrical exaggeration to inform about the real cost of tobacco.
We know that increasing the price of tobacco is the most effective strategy in reducing tobacco use both for current smokers and youth initiation. Educating everyone about the true cost is important to understanding why North Dakota, having one of the lowest Kent cigarette taxes in the country, should be addressing this important strategy.
The research is based on literally decades of work around the country, which provides the science that lets the coalitions, local district public health units, Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy and the state Health Department in North Dakota focus their resources to truly assure that they are used wisely and effectively.
Ironically, the suggestion given by the author of turning the dollars over to educate children about the dangers of smoking has been proven time and time again as not effective. Some of us remember the call to action by the Surgeon General for a Smoke-free Class 2000, the “Just Say ‘No’” campaign along with many others whose education efforts failed to make needed change.
The smoking rate among the Class of 2000 was one of the highest we have experienced in the country with more than 30 percent of high school students reporting current cigarette use.
Ask any K-12 student if they think smoking is bad. It’s not about them not knowing: it’s about changing what has been made “normal” around smoking. Consider smoke-free airplanes, now the “norm” to the point where few can imagine how smoking on airplanes ever was allowed.
On the other hand, smoke-free laws, increasing the price of tobacco and educating the public on the costs and harms of tobacco have proven highly effective in reducing both the number of people who smoke and how much they smoke and in preventing youth from initiating tobacco use.
The tobacco industry would like nothing better than to waste the tobacco settlement monies on feel-good strategies and ignore Best Practices. The American Lung Association has recognized North Dakota as a shining star in the country for its efforts to put those resources to use in Best Practices based on science, promoting health and wellness for our future.