North Dakota Spends More On Anti-Tobacco Programs Than Drunk Driving, Underage Drinking


A friend in the state Legislature forwarded me the document below earlier this week which is a survey conducted by Legislative Council of all spending on programs addressing risky behaviors, including both state and federal tax dollars.

The numbers are pretty interesting, and I wrote about them at Watchdog today.

One interesting fact is that the spending on these programs have gone up a lot in the current biennium versus the previous biennium. As I wrote at Watchdog, “The state spent more than $122 million in combined state and federal funds addressing risky behavior in the 2011-13 biennium, but that total increased that to more than $148 million in the current biennium, a roughly $26 million increase, mostly to programs addressing alcohol and tobacco use.”

The biggest increase in funding when to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office, which got about a $8 million bump in funding to run the state’s 24/7 sobriety program which requires multiple and egregious DUI offenders to check in for a breathalyzer test on a regular basis.

But more interesting than that, I think, was the breakdown of where the money went:

  • Drug and substance abuse: $67.179 million
  • Tobacco use: $21.36 million
  • Drunk driving and underage drinking: $13.414 million

The state is spending a lot more money on combatting tobacco use than it is on combatting drunk driving and underage drinking.

To be fair, these numbers don’t include things like the cost of paying law enforcement officers to do DUI patrols. But then, it also doesn’t include the cost of enforcing the state’s new anti-tobacco laws either.

I think it illustrates some pretty misguided priorities when it comes North Dakota’s tobacco policies. In 2008 voters approved Measure 3 which created the Tobacco Prevention and Control Board in state government, essentially an anti-tobacco activist group with the trappings, authority and funding of a government agency.

The impact of that decision, empowering the state’s anti-tobacco zealots, can now be measured in outsized spending on something I think most North Dakotans wouldn’t rank such a high priority.

Here’s the full report:

Risky Behavior Funding