February 22 saw a successful tobacco-free advocacy Day at the Capitol. Nearly 300 advocates and young people from all around the state traveled to St. Paul to meet with lawmakers and discuss policy ideas for preventing kids from smoking. The day was hosted by Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a 50-member coalition of organizations working to end tobacco’s harm in Minnesota for good.
A morning program for participants included remarks by Sen. Jeffrey Hayden of Minneapolis, a public health champion in the Legislature. Sen. Hayden has authored or cosponsored bills addressing menthol tobacco use in Minnesota’s African American communities and making all foster homes in our state smoke-free. Just last month, he introduced a new bill restricting tobacco couponing, helping keep Minnesota on the leading edge of innovative tobacco prevention policies. The program also featured talented young speakers, including kids from the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation in St. Paul and a student from Two Harbors who recited her original poem about creating a tobacco-free generation.
The advocates participated in lobby trainings, and then headed to the Capitol grounds for personal meetings with lawmakers. Priority areas for the coalition include:
- Raising Minnesota’s tobacco age to 21;
- Keeping tobacco prices high; and
- Restricting flavors in tobacco products.
All these policies have shown promise for reducing tobacco use among young people. We are hopeful lawmakers will be open to policy options that will move Minnesota in the direction of our first truly smoke-free generation.