North Dakota Is Spending Far Too Much Money On Tobacco Prevention

UPDATE: A reader emails to say the article is a little misleading. North Dakota isn’t second in total dollars spent, but rather second in dollars spent as a percentage of tobacco funds received. That makes more sense, though the other points stand.

Somehow tiny North Dakota, with a population of just under 650,000 citizens, has managed to get ranked #2 in the nation in spending on tobacco prevention numbers. And, you’ll notice, these don’t appear to be per-capita spending numbers either. This is apparently raw spending on tobacco prevention.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota is ranked second in the nation and South Dakota eighth in the funding of programs to prevent youths from smoking and to help smokers quit.

The annual rankings were released Wednesday by a coalition of public health groups including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society. The report says North Dakota spends $9.3 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and South Dakota spends $4 million.

Even if you believe that the government has a role to play in manipulating people’s personal habits (I happen to think that tobacco use is a personal choice that’s none of the government’s business), all this spending isn’t proving to be very effective. Despite this nation-leading amount of spending on tobacco prevention, North Dakota still ranks 24th in tobacco use.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of correlation between government tobacco prevention programs and tobacco use.

But government tobacco prevention has become big business. It started back when current US Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp was Attorney General and, apparently in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions, appointed trial lawyer Jack McConnell to be the state’s legal counsel in the tobacco class action lawsuits, service for which McConnell is still collecting millions annually.

Then in 2008 Heitkamp backed a ballot measure that passed (largely because it was overshadowed by the Legacy Fund and income tax cuts measures) and created in North Dakota an agency dedicated entirely to tobacco prevention. What’s next, a new temperance board to try and stop alcohol consumption too? Seems to me we tried that, too, once upon a time and it didn’t work so hot.

Anyway, now we in North Dakota spend more on tobacco prevention that just about every other state in the nation. Fat lot of good it’s doing us.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • 2hotel9

    Funny, municipalities, states and the Feds are dependent on tobacco for vast amounts of money, and then they turn around and piss it away on trying to get people to stop using tobacco, all the while raising taxes on tobacco and increasing their dependence on the money raised through taxes on tobacco. Round&round&round.

  • headward

    What a failure and a waste of money!  I’m waiting for advertisements that state that eating candy and burgers can make you fat.

    • 2hotel9

      Moochelle has done 2 PSAs on exactly that, paid for with tax dollars.

  • VocalYokel

    Intrusion into our personal lives has become big business.

  • Willis Forster

    There would be panic if tobacco sales went to zero tomorrow and dozens of bills put forward to replace the lost taxes from every level of production  and distribution from the fields to the store shelves in every state.

  • Dakotacyr

    The money in the measure was from the tobacco settlement money, not tax money.  It was taking money won in a tobacco lawsuit.  That money should be used for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, but that is not what the Rs did with the money, so she and Charlene Nelson got a measure passed to earmark more of the money for the program.

    • 2hotel9

      “The money in the measure was from the tobacco settlement money,” which is tax money, you stupid c*nt.

      • Dakotacyr

        it is not tax money, it came from the tobacco companies, not taxes from the people.  

        • 2hotel9

          It is tax money, you stupid c*nt.

        • Rob

          Tobacco companies are owned by people, and employ people and have people for customers.

          Are you saying smokers aren’t people?

          • Dakotacyr

            What?  What I’m saying is that the tobacco companies paid the settlement.  it wasn’t tax dollars.  What don’t you understand about that?

          • 2hotel9

            Yes, duhkotacryer, it is all funded with tax dollars, you stupid c*nt.

      • rockinthebakken


  • Kevin Flanagan

    Most of money goes into the giant bank accounts of the mercenary health department bureaucrats like Vicki Voldal-Rosenau!

  • DopeyDem

    Smoking cessation programs have a very low percentage of success. This is why most insurance companies do not cover them. It would probably be cheaper for the state to buy people cigarettes instead of trying to get them to stop smoking. This way the funds they spend get repaid to the state through their excessive cigarette taxes.

  • awfulorv

    Those of us that quit cold turkey should be in line for some money then, since nothing was spent trying to help us quit. That’s the way it goes. Spend most of your life growing a huge cancer in your lungs,and it’s a heroic, battle with the thing, and huge amounts of money spent. Quit, and live a wonderful life educating the muddle headed masses on the blogs, and it’s siss on you too pister.

  • Jarethcutestory2012

    True, most people quit without cessation aids (

    In a related note, I’ve kicked it for 2 months now! This isn’t the first time I’ve quit, but it has been the smoothest of them. Fewer cheats, less insomnia, but I have put on about 10lbs… I can live with that.