Minnesota Youth, Advocates Urge Legislators to Keep Lungs Loud

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Day at the Capitol Rallies Support for Tobacco 21 and Cessation Funding

St. Paul, MN (3/22/18) – Today, more than 350 youth and advocates from across Minnesota rallied at the State Capitol to support policies that will help end the death and disease associated with tobacco use. Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of nearly 60 organizations working to reduce tobacco use especially among youth, hosted a Day at the Capitol urging legislators to prioritize tobacco prevention and “Keep Lungs Loud.” Advocates met with lawmakers and shared personal stories of why they support tobacco prevention and cessation measures.

“Students, parents and residents from all over Minnesota joined together to send a clear message to their elected leaders: Minnesota should do more to reduce tobacco’s harm,” said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs for ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Together we urge legislators to support Tobacco 21, which will help prevent kids from starting down the road of tobacco addiction. We also need swift action to invest in funding for prevention and cessation, starting with services that help people quit.”

A recent study by the Minnesota Department of Health underscored the need for youth tobacco prevention. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found youth tobacco use increased for the first time in 17 years. More than 26 percent of high-school students in Minnesota report using tobacco products, up 7 percent since 2014.

A common-sense way to reduce youth tobacco use is to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21. Nearly all adult smokers – 95 percent – started before age 21. Raising the age would keep tobacco products away from young people which is especially important because nicotine harms the adolescent brain. Five Minnesota cities have passed Tobacco 21 policies and the movement is growing in Minnesota and across the nation. A bipartisan Tobacco 21 bill, HF 3532, introduced earlier this month continues to gain co-authors.

Advocates also emphasized the need for statewide cessation and prevention funding. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Minnesota. More than 6,300 Minnesotans die each year from tobacco use, and tobacco use costs Minnesotans over $7 billion annually in excess health care costs and lost productivity. Last year, the state collected more than $840 million in tobacco taxes and settlement fees, but less than 1 percent ($5 million) was spent on tobacco prevention efforts, and none was spent on helping people to quit tobacco use.

Minnesota needs to invest more of these dollars in tobacco prevention and cessation, and the first step is funding statewide cessation services. An estimated 580,000 Minnesota adults still smoke and the majority want to quit. Phone counseling and medication are cost-effective services that can more than triple the chances of success, but QUITPLAN® Services, the free program currently available to all Minnesotans, will end in early 2020. If the Minnesota Legislature does not act, Minnesota will soon become the only state in the nation not to provide these services.

Today the House Health and Human Services Reform Policy Committee passed a bill that would invest in statewide quit-smoking services. Chief Author Representative Dario Anselmo (R-Edina) was joined by health advocates and physicians to encourage lawmakers to pass HF 3291, which dedicates a fraction of ongoing tobacco settlement funds to cessation services. The bipartisan bill passed the committee, and it heads next to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.

“Funding statewide cessation services is not only the right thing to do for Minnesotans, it is also the smart thing to do financially,” Moilanen added. “The state receives ongoing payments from the tobacco settlement, and legislators can and should dedicate these funds to helping tobacco users quit. Although the state collected more than $840 million in tobacco taxes and ongoing tobacco settlement dollars last year, a pittance was spent on tobacco prevention and none on cessation. Dedicating even a small percentage of these funds to tobacco cessation services will ease the burden of tobacco and save lives and money.”

About Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation supports policies that reduce youth smoking and help end the death and disease associated with tobacco use, including raising the tobacco age to 21, limiting youth access to menthol-, candy- and fruit- flavored tobacco, keeping tobacco prices high and funding future tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.

Partners include: A Healthier Southwest, African American Leadership Forum, Allina Health, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Apple Tree Dental, Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota, Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Corporation, Becker County Energize, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare Health, Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, ClearWay MinnesotaSM, Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio – CLUES, Dodge County Public Health, Essentia Health, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, HealthEast, HealthPartners, Hennepin County Medical Center, Hope Dental Clinic, Horizon Public Health, Indigenous Peoples Task Force, ISAIAH, LAAMPP Alumni, Lake Region Healthcare, Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Local Public Health Association of Minnesota, March of Dimes, Mayo Clinic, Medica, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, Minnesota Public Health Association, MN Association of Community Health Centers, MN Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Model Cities of St. Paul, Inc., NAMI Minnesota, North Memorial Health Care, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, Perham Health, Rainbow Health Initiative, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Steele County Public Health, Tobacco Free Alliance, Twin Cities Medical Society, UCare, Vision In Living Life "Change is Possible", WellShare International and Zumbro Valley Medical Society. Find out more at: smokefreegenmn.org.


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    Our Mission

    Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of Minnesota organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. Each year in Minnesota tobacco use is responsible for more than 6,300 deaths and more than $3 billion in preventable health care costs and 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21. The coalition supports policies that reduce youth smoking, including keeping tobacco prices high, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco prevention programs.

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