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News: North Dakota Passes Smoking Ban, Missouri Rejects Tobacco Tax

7 Nov 2012

Yesterday, voters in North Dakota and Missouri decided on ballot questions that will impact cigar rights in those states. While Missouri voters rejected the anti-tobacco “Prop B,” voters in North Dakota approved Measure 4.

North Dakota’s Measure 4, a statewide smoking ban to criminalize indoor smoking in virtually all “public” places including cigar shops, overwhelmingly passed 66% to 34%. The law calls for violators of the restrictive ban to be fined $50, and for a bar proprietor who allowed smoking in spite of the ban to have his or her liquor and tobacco sales licenses revoked. Arguments made by cigar smokers and the hospitality industry that the blanket smoking ban would infringe on property rights, harm small businesses, and unfairly restrict personal choices to smoke were not enough to overcome intense lobbying by anti-tobacco groups.

Prop. B in Missouri would have increased the state tax on cigars by 15% if passed, but the move appears to have failed by a slim margin. The latest numbers show “no” with 50.8% and “yes” with 40.2%, with a 42,000 vote difference out of nearly 2.7 million votes cast.

Any revenue from the tax increase was to be earmarked in equal proportions for education and smoking cessation programs, but critics point out that politicians regularly and easily raid such funds, so there was no guarantee of any net funding increase in the designated areas. Further, some people cautioned that raising the tobacco tax would just drive cigarette sales to neighboring states, and presumably would drive cigar sales to online retailers.

It’s not clear if the margin of defeat for Proposition B is enough to avoid a lengthy recount process. In early June voters in California narrowly rejected a 73% tobacco tax increase but, due to an extended recount and certification process, the result wasn’t finalized until a little over a month ago.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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