Tobacco Control in North Dakota, 2004-2012: Reaching for Higher Ground
In addition to passing a statewide clean indoor air law in 2005, from 2004 to 2012, North Dakota tobacco control advocates and program leaders used locally-based approaches to instituting stronger tobacco control programs and policies and secured funding for a comprehensive tobacco control program and a new tobacco control agency that existed outside of the state Department of Health but was subjected to amendment attempts in each Legislative Session. As of 2012, the maturing program – divided between two state agencies and other state partners – was showing signs of success and has the opportunity to continue to reduce tobacco use.
· From 1985 to 2012, despite coalition changes due to lack of funding and leadership, tobacco control advocates were committed to maintaining a statewide coalition.
· Tobacco Free North Dakota (TFND), the statewide tobacco control coalition created in 1985, varied in its level of activity from 1985 to 2012.
· Following the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998, tobacco control advocacy lacked a sustained statewide coalition. TFND fell dormant following the 2001 Legislative Session as a result of a lack of consistent leadership or funding.
· The DOH provided a forum for a statewide tobacco control coalition when, in 2002, it created the Healthy North Dakota Tobacco Policy Subcommittee consisting primarily of state voluntary health organizations and local tobacco program leaders as well as a DOH employee; it became the active statewide coalition in 2004 and in 2005, succeeded in getting the Legislature to pass a clean indoor air law that prohibited smoking in most public places and places of employment that contained some exemptions.
· In 2008 state and local partners reactivated TFND as the statewide coalition. This decision fit nicely with the desire of the new leadership in the DOH tobacco control program who wanted to relocate policy work outside of the DOH out of concerns that the DOH would be accused of “illegal lobbying,” a common tobacco industry strategy for intimidating health departments and preventing them from engaging in effective tobacco control policy advocacy.
In 2010, the TPC Executive Committee, created by Measure 3, funded TFND and other state partners such as the American Lung Association with a Special Initiatives Grants which allowed these organizations, which previously lacked funding, to hire staff and increase their statewide presence on tobacco control policy issues.