Beginning in the mid 1990s, more than 40 states and some localities sued tobacco companies, alleging that the industry violated antitrust and consumer protection laws, withheld information about the adverse health effects of tobacco, manipulated nicotine levels to keep smokers addicted,and conspired to hold back less risky and less addictive tobacco products from the market.
In November 1998, four of the nation’s largest tobacco companies—Philip Morris Incorporated, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, and Lorillard Tobacco Company (referred to as the “original participating manufacturers”)— negotiated an agreement with the attorneys general of 46 states (including North Dakota) thereby settling a number of lawsuits. This agreement is know as the Master Settlement Agreement.
In the spring of 2007 long time tobacco control advocates met to review the status North Dakota's public policy and expenditures related to tobacco prevention. This meeting was initiated as North Dakota was once a national leader in tobacco prevention had stopped its foreward progress in preventing tobacco related disease. Recognizing the increased dollars coming to North Dakota as a result of the strategic contribution fund payments, the increased resources made available to water development and education through increased oil extraction tax revenues and North Dakota's growing budget surplus, the advocates reasoned that North Dakota was in a unique position to save lives by initiating and implementing a comprehensive tobacco control program as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.)
In the nine years since the tobacco settlement was signed, tobacco advocates in North Dakota have attempted to convince the North Dakota Legislature to use tobacco settlement dollars to fully fund a CDC-based tobacco control program. Those efforts were unsuccessful even though public opinion polls revealed that North Dakota’s citizens strongly believe that tobacco settlement dollars should be used for tobacco control. Based on these experiences, the advocates believe that the North Dakota Legislature would never fully fund an effective tobacco prevention and control program and an initiated measure was filed in August 2007.
Renewed Hope Has Been Restored
Measure 3 passed on November 4, 2008 with a 54% approval rating. ND will be the only state in the union to currently fund prevention efforts to recommened levels of the U.S. Center for Diease Control and Prevention. The ND Governor's Office will appoint members to the newly formed Tobacco Advisory Board in December. Once appointed the board will have 180 days to design the comprehensive statewide prevention & cessation framework that will begin the important life saving work in ND. The board will work closely with the ND Department of Health as to not duplicate any current services.