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News Summary

Incentive to go smoke-free supported, attacked

Publication Date: 2011-01-24
  • Publication:Bismarck Tribune

A bill that would offer a tax incentive for bars to go smoke-free had its first hearing Monday, getting backing from the hospitality industry but a negative response from various health groups.

Senate Bill 2216 would effectively give bars that aren’t already in smoke-free towns a 30 percent tax break on the gross receipts tax they pay in lieu of sales tax.

Sponsor Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, said most people prefer smoke-free bars but he doesn’t think state government has a place in forcing bars to make the switch...

Still, a major sticking point of the bill, both for those for and against it, was that bars that are already in smoke-free municipalities would not be eligible for the tax break.

Already, bars in Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks and Napoleon have gone smoke-free due to city ordinances.

“We do have members that are going to wonder why they’re not getting a tax break,” Martinson said.

When asked about the fairness of the concept, Miller said it wasn’t necessarily fair but there also was nothing stopping cities from revisiting their bans.

That thought was called an unintended consequence by Jeanne Prom, director of the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, which proposes a statewide ban on smoking in public places.

Vicki Rosenau with City County Health in Valley City said the bill could be a barrier to making progress in the number of places that don’t allow smoking.

Both women also took issue with the idea that the tax break might offset a potential revenue loss from going smoke-free. They said studies show no negative impact on a bar’s revenue.

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