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News Summary

Legislators content with tobacco rules, any new efforts may be local

Publication Date: 2010-12-30
  • Author:DALE WETZEL
  • Publication:Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota lawmakers appear content to allow smoking to continue in bars and truck stops, and have little enthusiasm for increasing the state's tobacco taxes to deter cigarette and smokeless tobacco use, an Associated Press survey of legislators says.

Legislators who responded to the December survey, which was conducted by e-mail and regular mail, supported the right of local governments to impose tougher anti-smoking rules than the North Dakota Legislature itself has been willing to approve.

Since lawmakers banned smoking in most public workplaces in 2005, the Legislature has defeated proposals to abolish the law's exemptions, which allow smoking in bars, tobacco shops, motel rooms designated for smokers, rooms rented for private functions, and enclosed areas of truck stops where children are not allowed.

Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Devils Lake and Napoleon have gone beyond the state law and approved local ordinances that ban smoking in bars. The Devils Lake measure is to take effect July 1, while Bismarck's ordinance has been put on hold until it is resolved by a citywide vote. After Bismarck's City Commission approved two ordinances on smoking in bars, a group of bar employees circulated referendum petitions to put them on the ballot.

The AP survey asked legislators whether they favored a statewide anti-smoking law, leaving the issue to local governments, or continuing the current practice of having a statewide law while allowing local governments to toughen it if they chose. In all, 114 of the 141 members of the North Dakota Legislature, or 81 percent, responded to the survey.

In the North Dakota House, 59 of the 76 representatives who replied said they preferred continuing the existing law or letting local governments handle the issue. Fourteen House members advocated a statewide policy, and three were undecided.

Twenty-nine North Dakota senators who replied to the survey favored continuing the present law or leaving the issue to local boards, while six wanted a statewide law and three were undecided.

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