This Is Why Putting Anti-Tobacco Activism in State Government Was a Bad Idea


TOM STROMME/Tribune Jeanne Prom, executive director of the North Dakota Center For Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, spoke up against HB 1253, a bill relating to reimbursement of costs incurred in complying with smoking restrictions in public places and places of employment. Prom said businesses are always complying with new laws and regulations and they do not receive reimbursements for making changes.

Study: Nicotine labeling on e-cigarettes sold in ND often wrong

That’s the troubling headline over a Patrick Springer article published in the Fargo Forum over the weekend.

Whatever your position on vaping, we can all agree that the labeling should be accurate. But there’s a problem. This study was conducted by the anti-tobacco activists in our state government who have made it clear that they are extending their crusade against tobacco to even vaping products:

The study, commissioned by the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, found that half of tested labels—51 percent—didn’t accurately reflect the contents of the e-cigarette liquid. The actual nicotine levels in some products were 172 percent higher than labeled, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

Jeanne Prom, executive director of the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, called the study results “alarming” and underscores the need for regulating e-cigarette liquids.

“Nicotine is a very dangerous and addictive drug and it needs to be regulated as such,” she said. “One or two teaspoons can be fatal, depending on the size of the child.”

Is this study accurate?

If we were talking about the typical sort of government data we could probably assume that the data is generally accurate. But the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control isn’t some unbiased government agency. It’s an advocacy group that has, unfortunately, been embedded in our state government.

And the timing of this study, coinciding with a ballot measure which seeks a massive tax hike on tobacco and vaping products alike, is more than a little convenient.

When the National Rifle Association or the Brady Campaign publishes research about gun violence, it’s safe to assume that these groups are probably going to focus on methodologies and data that best serves their agendas. Which is why data from groups like that should always be taken with a grain of salt.

But what if the NRA or the Brady Campaign were, like the Center for Tobacco and Prevention Control Policy, a branch of the state government? I think we’d all like to believe that data from a government agency is accurate and unbiased, but the anti-tobacco activists who work for our state government are anything but unbiased.

The best thing North Dakota’s leaders could do, to ensure a fair and well-informed debate over tobacco and vaping policy in our state, is to kick the anti-tobacco activists out of their cushy government jobs.