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Rep. Nelson should rethink action on Measure 3

By Staff | May 1, 2009

By Allan Meckle

I’m a member of the North Dakota Society for Respiratory Care and a respiratory therapist. Every day respiratory therapists see patients who have trouble breathing because of their own smoking, or because of someone else’s.

I am very disappointed in the actions of the members of the ND House of Representatives, including Rep. Jon Nelson, who have disregarded the North Dakota voters’ clear mandate to fully fund Measure #3, the comprehensive tobacco use prevention program. Just as respiratory therapists follow doctor’s orders on treating patients, the North Dakota Legislature are to follow the North Dakota voters’ directive and fully fund Measure 3 exactly as it passed in November. In both cases, when orders are followed, good health can be the result.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in our state. If we fund a comprehensive tobacco use prevention program, run it most effectively (i.e. without political interference in an independent committee), and sustain it over time, we can make great strides in preventing cancer and heart disease in women – especially low-income women (the strongest indicator of smoking is low socio-economic status), and men (especially low-income men) – simply by providing more affordable and accessible cessation and better prevention.We can also make lung cancer the rare disease it once was, if given enough time.

The most effective tobacco use prevention and treatment program was established by Measure 3. I want to assure area representative Jon Nelson that amendments to Measure 3 are not needed. (The N.D. Senate pointed this out when they passed Measure 3’s funding bill without changes.)The proposed N.D. House amendments to drain millions from Measure 3 for other health programs, to transfer all the money and administration from the new tobacco committee to the health department, and to end the comprehensive program in eight years were not the wishes of the people, nor would these amendments create the most effective tobacco use prevention and treatment program.

Rep. Nelson, please respect the mandate of the N.D. voters and fully fund Measure 3 as we passed it, without amendments. Measure 3 allows respiratory therapists and other medical and public health professionals to work with communities to implement those programs proven to cause smoking rates to drop and proven to save millions of dollars in healthcare costs.

Meckle, a Rugby resident, is director of respiratory care at the Heart of America Medical Center, Rugby.

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