Michelle Hogen of Maplewood and her husband Brian were among the more than 4,200 Minnesotans who entered the QuitCash Challenge, an annual quit-and-win contest sponsored by QUITPLAN Services. Today, we celebrated Michelle’s accomplishment and presented her with the contest’s grand prize, a check for $5,000.
Smokers for more than 20 years, Brian and Michelle were motivated to quit when they found out Michelle was pregnant. They joined the QuitCash Challenge in March, and successfully quit smoking during the contest’s “quit month” of April. At the end of the month, Michelle’s name was randomly drawn as the contest winner, with her smoke-free status being verified by a lab test.
The Hogens’ status as expectant parents motivated them to quit for good. “We were starting to notice what 20 years of smoking does to your health. Brian was starting to develop a smoker’s cough,” says Michelle. “When we learned I was pregnant, we were inspired to quit for our baby.”
Michelle and Brian plan to use some of the prize money to fix up their home while preparing for the new addition to their family.
This week ClearWay Minnesota began running a new television ad as part of our Still a Problem campaign. The ad shows how experimentation with menthol tobacco can quickly become a harmful addiction for teens.
Menthol is an additive used by cigarette manufacturers to give smoke a minty taste and cooling sensation, making it easier to start smoking. Menthol tobacco products are target-marketed to youth, African Americans and other specific populations.
Although many smokers believe menthol cigarettes to be healthier than other kinds, they are just as addictive and damaging to health. In fact, studies show menthol cigarettes actually lead to greater addiction and decrease successes in quitting smoking.
In Minnesota, preference for menthol tobacco products among students has more than doubled since 2000. The most recent Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that about half of Minnesota teen smokers (44 percent) smoke menthols. National research shows that adolescents smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates than any other age group.
We hope the new ad will raise awareness of menthol as a distinct tobacco issue, and that policymakers will take action to help. State and local governments can regulate menthol by restricting sales at retail locations frequented by youth. And studies suggest that banning menthol tobacco altogether would motivate 39 percent of menthol smokers to quit and result in a 10 percent reduction in smoking, saving 633,000 lives, by 2050. Minnesota policymakers should consider these steps, which will help create a smoke-free future for our state.
Today, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation released the following statement on raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21:
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation supports the national Tobacco 21 movement and encourages Minnesota to look for ways to move forward on raising the purchase age to 21 to prevent addiction and future health problems.
Youth tobacco use is still a problem in Minnesota. More than 55,000 middle-school and high-school students in this state use conventional tobacco products, and nearly 40,000 students use e-cigarettes.
Minnesotans agree that we need to do more to keep kids from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and disease. The best way to prevent them from using tobacco products is to keep them from starting in the first place.
More than 120 cities across the country and the state of Hawaii have adopted policies to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21 to restrict youth access. A map of these communities is available here: Tobacco 21 National Map.
These measures reflect the growing momentum to raise the age to 21. In fact, 75 percent of Americans surveyed support increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.
Raising the age to 21 has also gained the attention of the New England Journal of Medicine, which recently published an article, “Have Tobacco 21 Laws Come of Age?“, summarizing the latest evidence and national momentum surrounding Tobacco 21 laws.
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a statewide coalition supporting policies that will reduce youth smoking and help end the death and disease associated with tobacco use for good. ClearWay Minnesota is a member of the coalition.