ClearWay Minnesota has joined with more than 30 organizations to form Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a statewide coalition supporting policies that will reduce youth smoking and help end the death and disease associated with tobacco use for good. In addition to local chapters of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association, coalition members include health providers like Mayo Clinic, insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and many other health organizations and nonprofits.
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation has identified four strategic priorities, all of which are known to reduce tobacco’s harm and keep kids from smoking.
- Increasing the tobacco purchase age to 21. A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine shows raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 will prevent youth smoking and save lives. Raising the age reduces teens’ ability to buy tobacco products themselves or to access them through social sources.
- Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. The tobacco industry uses kid-friendly flavors to attract the next generation of smokers. Research shows flavoring increases the appeal of cigarettes for youth, and the industry specifically uses menthol to attract young people, African Americans and other targeted populations to tobacco products.
- Funding tobacco prevention. Despite receiving $1.4 billion from ongoing tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes in 2015, Minnesota is spending less than 50 percent of what the CDC recommends for an effective tobacco control program. As a proven way to reduce tobacco use, funding for tobacco control efforts in our state should be increased.
- Keeping tobacco prices high. Higher prices prevent kids from starting to smoke, and are proven to help existing smokers quit. Teens are especially price-sensitive, with every 10 percent increase in the price of tobacco reducing the number of youth who smoke by 5 percent.
The coalition’s debut comes just as lawmakers are returning to St. Paul for the 2016 Legislative Session. This year’s Session is unusually short, and the bustle of the Capitol will be chaotic because of ongoing renovations that will not be finished until next year. Nevertheless, ClearWay Minnesota and our coalition partners will be working to educate lawmakers about how they can improve health and life by supporting proposals that reduce tobacco’s harm.
Research shows state laws like the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007 and the tobacco tax increase passed in 2013 have helped to reduce smoking prevalence in the state from 22 percent in 1999 to 14 percent today. We are proud to join Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, and we will keep you informed of developments at the Capitol as they occur. In the meantime, you can join our grassroots action list here.