North Dakota Tobacco Use Rates Are Inconvenient For Anti-Tobacco Crusaders


According to a report from Robin Huebner, North Dakota is “third worst” (from the perspective of opposing tobacco use, I suppose) in terms of smokeless tobacco use. But the state is in the middle of the pack when it comes to cigarette use:

Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that North Dakota is in the middle of the pack for cigarette smoking, but is third worst – behind Wyoming and Mississippi – in the percentage of adults who use chewing tobacco or snuff.

The ranking lists all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

North Dakota was ranked 49th with 7.6 percent of its adults using smokeless tobacco in 2011 – the most recent year for which numbers are available.

South Dakota ranked 43rd with 6.8 percent, and Minnesota was 32nd with 4.8 percent of adults using smokeless tobacco.

The highest percentage of smokeless tobacco users in North Dakota by race are American Indians, who double up on the number of Caucasians using it.

These numbers are interesting for two reasons.

First, while “third worst” in smokeless tobacco use is bad, I guess, the percentage of the population that uses smokeless tobacco is really small. Which makes me wonder if this is really anything worth worrying about, from a public policy standpoint.

Second, I feel like Huebner kind of buried the lead here. Who cares if North Dakota is near the top of the list for the use of a marginal tobacco product. Cigarette use (which is by far the most common form of tobacco use) isn’t that high in North Dakota. That’s the news here. We’re “middle of the pack” as Hubener reports, which flies in the face of the case the anti-tobacco zealots have been making about the state’s tobacco taxes.

They argue that more people here smoke because our taxes are so low. But, despite some of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, we have a relatively low smoking rate.

It’s almost like taxes don’t have nearly the impact on smoking that the anti-smoking zealots claim.

The House and Senate each voted down big hikes in the tobacco tax rate this session, by wide margins, but the anti-tobacco folks are making noises about a ballot measure. This data is something to keep in mind if that becomes a reality.