When ClearWay Minnesota was founded, we were given a maximum lifespan of 25 years. Our organization will sunset on December 31, 2021. We are extraordinarily grateful for your support and continued attention to tobacco’s harms.
Here is a summary of our shared legacy and how you can stay involved.
For more than two decades, ClearWay Minnesota led the fight against commercial tobacco use, Minnesota’s top preventable cause of death and disease. Our vision was to eliminate the harm tobacco causes the people of Minnesota. As an independent nonprofit, we aimed to enhance life for all Minnesotans by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke through research, action and collaboration. For most of our existence, ClearWay Minnesota provided the majority of funding for tobacco prevention and treatment efforts across the state.
ClearWay Minnesota was entrusted with $202 million of the initial settlement Minnesota received from the tobacco companies, and we have extended this reach through smart investments. In total, we spent more than $280 million on activities aimed at reducing commercial tobacco’s harm in the state, including:
Helping more than 200,000 individual tobacco users make quit attempts using free, science-based tools through QUITPLAN® Services;
Funding more than $33 million in grants to organizations conducting research on tobacco use in Minnesota, and leading major research initiatives like the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) and Tribal Tobacco Use Project (TTUP);
Organizing campaigns to pass policies that prevent youth tobacco initiation and make it easier for existing commercial tobacco users to quit, including our strong smoke-free indoor air and Tobacco 21 laws, tobacco price increases, flavored tobacco sales restrictions and prohibitions, a modernization of existing tobacco statutes to cover innovative tobacco products, and others;
Conducting outreach and programs to reduce commercial tobacco use among populations disproportionately harmed, including building capacity for public health and tobacco prevention leadership among Indigenous, Black, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) and other communities;
Supporting Minnesota’s American Indian Nations in their work to restore traditional tobacco practices and reduce commercial tobacco abuse in Indian Country; and
Creating advertising and social media outreach to educate about tobacco’s harms, direct tobacco users to quitting help and promote strategies that prevent or reduce commercial tobacco use.
Through ClearWay Minnesota, the state’s comprehensive investments in tobacco prevention and cessation have saved thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Since 1998, the adult cigarette-smoking rate in Minnesota has fallen from 22 percent to 14 percent. Over the past 20 years, tobacco control investments prevented 4,560 cancers, 31,691 hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, 12,881 respiratory disease hospitalizations and 4,118 deaths. In addition, $5.1 billion was saved in worker productivity and health care costs. Many of our activities will continue to have long-lasting impact beyond our end of days.
To celebrate ClearWay Minnesota’s life and legacy, we have prepared a Legacy Report commemorating our history and accomplishments.
While ClearWay Minnesota’s life is ending, the need for ongoing work to reduce commercial tobacco’s harms remains urgent. With youth tobacco use remaining high, 574,000 adults smoking and the tobacco industry spending over $100 million a year in our state (not counting e-cigarette ads), there is still a strong need for tobacco prevention and cessation work in Minnesota. In certain communities targeted by tobacco industry marketing, cigarette smoking and other commercial tobacco use continues at disproportionate rates. And the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the need to protect lung health, especially among young people and those hit hardest by commercial tobacco-related disparities.
We are proud to have helped secure funding for ongoing commercial tobacco treatment and prevention programs in our final years. More than anything, we are grateful to the many partners, advocates and friends who worked with us during our lifetime and who will continue fighting to keep Minnesotans healthy after we are gone.
Those who wish to remain involved can sign up here to join the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) action list (https://www.fightcancer.org/actions/wait-youre-not-done) and continue to be notified of opportunities to engage in tobacco prevention efforts. ACS CAN is a trusted, long-time partner that will help co-lead the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation coalition. You can also follow the work of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you to everyone who’s helped ClearWay Minnesota in our efforts to reduce commercial tobacco’s harm since 1998. We owe you a debt of gratitude, and with your continued commitment, we know we are leaving Minnesota’s health in good hands.