North Dakota has garnered praise for its spending efforts to reduce tobacco use. There’s a little irony in this since the Legislature in the past has questioned the amount of spending.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids looked at how states used the billions of dollars received from lawsuits settled with major tobacco companies in 1998.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Dakota is the only state to spend at levels it recommended. The state also was one of five states to spend at least 50 percent of what the CDC recommends.

Spending by states on tobacco prevention programs bottomed out at $459.5 million in 2013, according to the campaign's report, and is expected to reach $468 million in 2016. At the same time, an estimated $25.8 billion will be collected in settlement funds and tobacco taxes. Tobacco companies reportedly spend about $9.6 billion a year on marketing. North Dakota has $10 million planned for fiscal year 2016.

The anti-tobacco campaign appears to be working.

A survey conducted by the state Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health shows 80 percent of the students responding said they did not use cigarettes, cigars or smokeless tobacco, an increase from 74 percent two years ago. The percentage of high school students who said they had smoked a cigarette at least once in the month dropped from 19 percent to 12 percent. The percentage of high school students who said they had ever tried to smoke a cigarette was 35 percent, down from 41 percent in 2013. Smokeless tobacco use declined from 14 percent to 11 percent this year.

The anti-tobacco effort emphasizes keeping kids from using tobacco and if they do, getting them to quit. The numbers indicate they are being successful. Some have questioned the amount of money being spent and how it’s being used. While the campaign may appear heavy-handed at times, it’s getting the point across. In the past some legislators wanted to spend less on anti-tobacco efforts and divert the tobacco settlement money to other programs. In 2008 North Dakotans passed a measure requiring a portion of the settlement funds be used for tobacco prevention.

Even a tobacco company favors the spending. "We believe states should use (settlement) payments to fund tobacco cessation and underage tobacco prevention programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control," Brian May, a spokesman for Philip Morris, told the Forum News Service.

The anti-tobacco effort has been successful in other areas with smoking banned in public areas. And now the efforts go beyond traditional forms of tobacco to vaporing products. The dangers of second-hand smoke is another focus, with apartment residents being urged to demand a smoke-free environment. Some may think this is going too far, but anti-tobacco campaign is on a roll and has the money to keep going.

Society is getting closer to being smoke-free, too fast for some and too slowly for others.

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