is a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate the harm tobacco causes the people of Minnesota. Since 1998, we’ve helped lower our state’s smoking rate from 22 to 14 percent, reached more than 130,000 Minnesotans with quit-smoking services, reduced secondhand smoke exposure and worked to address tobacco use among those most affected by its harms. We are funded with 3 percent of the Minnesota tobacco settlement.
MINNESOTA: NOW WITH FEWER SMOKERS
Approximately every three years, ClearWay Minnesota collaborates with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS), a study that measures adult smoking in our state and examines other tobacco trends.
This year’s MATS release found continuing progress. The adult smoking rate has declined to 14.4 percent, the lowest rate ever recorded in Minnesota and a significant decrease from 2010.
Notably, smoking among young adults (ages 18-24) also dropped significantly. This decrease mirrors a decline in youth smoking (under 18) found by MDH in 2014. Smoking reductions among these age groups, who historically have had higher smoking rates, suggest a changing culture, as children are growing up in a world where tobacco use is increasingly rare.
MATS found a 2013 tobacco tax reduced smoking. Majorities of smokers who quit said the increase helped them make quit attempts (62.8 percent) and stay smoke-free (62.7 percent).
Additionally, MATS examined smoking by income, education and gender, and looked at trends such as menthol cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use and people making their homes smoke-free. The full report is available at www.mnadulttobaccosurvey.org.
The Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) is the most comprehensive data source on tobacco use in Minnesota.
COLLABORATION AND RESPECT: KEEPING TOBACCO SACRED
American Indians in Minnesota have an ancient relationship with tobacco as a sacred medicine, bestowed by the Creator and central to tribal culture. But smoking also causes tremendous problems, with 59 percent of American Indians in Minnesota using cigarettes, and smoking-related disease at epidemic levels in Native communities.
Tribal elders differentiate between traditional tobacco practices and commercial tobacco abuse – the “two tobacco ways.” They teach that the tobacco industry has corrupted sacred ways, and that respecting tobacco as a medicine can help move people away from cigarette smoking.
ClearWay Minnesota partners with American Indian communities to advance smoke-free policies and raise awareness of commercial tobacco’s dangers on reservations. This year Leech Lake Tribal College adopted a commercial tobacco-free campus policy, Fond du Lac Reservation created a commercial tobacco-free policy for government facilities and Fond-du-Luth Casino made one floor smoke-free.
We also partner with American Indians on the Keep Tobacco Sacred campaign, highlighting the difference between the two tobacco ways. These collaborations honor Native traditions while educating about the health harms of smoking.
QUITTING: THE NEXT BEST THING TO NEVER STARTING
THE QUITCASH CHALLENGETM: EVERY QUITTER’S A WINNER
Michelle Runge of Grand Rapids was one of 3,400 Minnesotans to enter the QuitCash Challenge, a contest sponsored by QUITPLAN® Services. Michelle, who successfully quit smoking in the contest month of May, ultimately won the $5,000 prize.
A smoker for 43 years, Michelle quit after being diagnosed with emphysema. “My husband suggested that I call QUITPLAN,” she said. “Their advice was wonderful, especially for a long-time smoker.” Through QUITPLAN Services, Michelle got free coaching support and nicotine lozenges to help her quit.
This was the seventh QuitCash Challenge. For the first time, “mini-quits” helped smokers prepare for quitting by making changes like not smoking in the car or after meals. Since 2008, nearly 20,000 Minnesotans have participated in the contest.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that I was the winner,” Michelle said, “and I’ve won twice, because I quit smoking too.”
REACHING PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP THE MOST
In Minnesota, 24 percent of adult smokers are in the lowest income bracket, and 20 percent of individuals who have less than a college degree smoke.
In addition to QUITPLAN Services, which have reached more than 130,000 tobacco users, new ClearWay Minnesota grants are funding a program in community organizations that serve low-income individuals. Through the program, smokers are directed to quitting help by organizations they already trust.
And a recent partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services is helping smokers who are covered by Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare to quit. It does this by giving more health-care workers, including social workers and mental-health counselors, incentives to talk to patients about quitting.
SHAPING THE ENVIRONMENT
Strong policies at state and local levels help create an environment where fewer kids start smoking and more adults quit. During the 2015 Legislative Session, several proposals passed that will reduce tobacco’s harm in various ways, including:
- A project addressing menthol tobacco use among African Americans, a group disproportionately harmed by tobacco;
- Continued funding for state tobacco prevention efforts and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP);
- Improvements in Minnesota’s health care quality measurement system; and
- Removing copays for tobacco cessation for Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees.
Proposals amounting to $80 million in tax breaks for tobacco companies did not make it through the 2015 legislative process.
Advocates from around the state helped achieve these outcomes. Hundreds of citizens visited lawmakers at the Capitol in April. Doctors, health experts and LAAMPP Policy Champions (alumni of a ClearWay Minnesota project to grow advocacy in diverse communities) testified in support of health policies.
Over the past year, local policy grantees passed 57 new tobacco-related policies. ClearWay Minnesota funding allows these organizations to engage in activities that reduce the harm tobacco causes their communities.
- American Lung Association in Minnesota – Greater Mankato and Northeast Minnesota chapters
- The Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota
- CentraCare Health Foundation (Crave the Change)
- Clay-Wilkin Community Health Board (organizing PartnerSHIP 4 Health)
- Goodhue County (4 Corners Partnership)
- Southwest Health and Human Services (Southwest Community Health Improvement Program)
FLAVORED TOBACCO: DELICIOUS BUT DANGEROUS
This year ClearWay Minnesota updated our Still a Problem media campaign to address the issue of flavored tobacco. Notable elements include two new TV ads.
Tobacco companies have long used flavors to attract kids. Internal documents show tobacco executives wrote:
- “The base of our business is the high-school student.”
- “It’s a well-known fact that teenagers like sweet products.”
- “It was suggested that we investigate the possibility of borrowing/switching study data from the company which produces ‘Life Savers’ as a basis for determining which flavors enjoy the widest appeal [for young people].”
Cigarettes containing flavors other than menthol can no longer be sold in the United States – but many other tobacco products, including little cigars, cigarillos, chew and e-cigarettes, are still sold in kid-friendly flavors such as bubble gum, strawberry and grape.
And menthol cigarettes are targeted to and disproportionately used by groups including African Americans, young people, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) communities.
The Still a Problem campaign complements public policy work aiming to reduce kids’ access to tobacco and restrict flavors that attract them in the first place.
Board of Directors
Smoking is declining in Minnesota and across the country. That’s great news for health. There are many reasons this is happening. A 2013 tobacco price increase at the state level played a role, but so have decades of efforts including educational campaigns, smoke-free policies, access to cessation, and more. These things didn’t just help smokers quit – they changed the environment so fewer young people would take up smoking in the first place. Whole generations of kids are growing up in a tobacco-free world, and that gives us hope for the future.
At ClearWay Minnesota, we are proud of how we’ve helped create this reality – but we also know not everyone is benefiting equally. Smoking in the general population is down, but it’s still high, even at epidemic levels, among some groups, and the industry is always trying to get back into the game.
As long as ClearWay Minnesota is here, we will continue to help smokers quit and prevent new ones from starting. Our research, community development, cessation, public policy and media activities are all reducing tobacco’s harm – and we thank those of you who have joined us in this important fight.
– Thomas Weaver, ClearWay MinnesotaSM Board Chair, 2013-2015
Board of Directors
Thomas Weaver: Chair
Joy Rikala: Vice Chair
Bob Boerschel: Treasurer
Vivian Jenkins Nelsen: Secretary
ClearWay Minnesota’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2017 focuses on:
- Supporting policies that reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Supporting Minnesotans in quitting tobacco use
- Creating an environment that supports a tobacco-free future for Minnesotans
- Planning for ClearWay Minnesota’s limited life