The End of BreatheND Is Nigh

The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control – you know then as “BreatheND” – isn’t a public health initiative.

It’s an employment program for anti-tobacco activists who enjoy some of the biggest salaries in state government for their job categories.

The Center was created by voters on the 2008 ballot, but lawmakers have wanted to get rid of it for years. Now in the 2017 legislative session it seems that change is coming.

Governor Jack Dalrymple didn’t include funding for the Center in his final budget delivered to lawmakers last year. Governor Doug Burgum, in announcing his own budget priorities, also did not include funding for the Center.

A Senate committee has just voted 11-3 to dissolve the agency and move what anti-tobacco initiatives remain into the Department of Health. If the full Senate agrees with the committee recommendation, which seems likely, you can be almost be assured that BreatheND will cease to exist in our state.

The House will almost certainly concur with the Senate.

A Senate committee has just voted 11-3 to dissolve the agency and move what anti-tobacco initiatives remain into the Department of Health. If the full Senate agrees with the committee recommendation, which seems likely, you can be almost be assured that BreatheND will cease to exist in our state.

Back in 2008 voters were told that they’d be casting their ballots for using the state’s share of national tobacco settlement dollars for tobacco cessation programs. Would they didn’t realize is that they’d be creating an anti-tobacco political advocacy group in the state government. A cushy employment opportunity for blinkered political activists who are  slowly creeping their mission into fighting vaping. Something that has nothing to do with tobacco and, ironically, seems to be contributing to reduced tobacco use.

What’s more, 2017 is the last year of the tobacco settlement payments, and BreatheND has been stockpiling their funds. According to the Office of Management and Budget’s appropriations book for the 2015-2017 biennium, BreatheND is projected to have a more than $56 million ending balance. Unlike many of the state’s revenue projections, that one is probably accurate given that the source of the revenues is little impacted by crop or oil prices.

Those millions can be put to better use in our state budget.

The government’s work on tobacco isn’t rocket science.

The government’s position on tobacco should be to make available accurate information about the health risks associated with tobacco use. That’s it. The Health Department can handle that simple mission.

If adults want to smoke, that’s up to them. If kids try to smoke, well, that’s already illegal.

It’s up to parents and law enforcement to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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