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.
ClearWay Minnesota is conducting a marketing agency search. We are releasing a Request for Information (RFI) as a first step to identify a marketing agency to begin work in January 2018. We are seeking an agency or agencies with strong strategic capabilities to develop and implement a comprehensive marketing campaign in support of our Mission, Legacy Goals and Strategic Plan.
This is an open RFI and we are inviting any eligible agency to respond. The full details of the RFI can be found here. Responses are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 24, 2017.
Agencies with questions about the RFI or the process may contact Marietta Dreher, Director of Communications and Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past month saw the release of a new report on the harms caused by tobacco use in Minnesota. Compiled by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Health Care Costs and Smoking in Minnesota: The Bottom Line estimates how many lives are lost to smoking-related disease in our state, and calculates excess medical expenses caused by smoking. The report provides the first new data on smoking’s costs to our state since 2010.
The report finds that annually, 6,312 Minnesota deaths are attributable to smoking, and that excess medical costs to treat smoking-related disease amount to $3.19 billion per year in the state.
Blue Cross leaders said that while smoking rates are declining, the costs of smoking remain too high. Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity Janelle Waldock pointed out that Minnesota’s adult smoking rate is at 14 percent, but noted that “many communities are at greater risk for premature death and disease, both through the direct impacts of smoking, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke.” In Minnesota, she said, smoking rates are particularly high among American Indians (59 percent) and Somalis (24 percent).
The Blue Cross report was released the same week as an annual “Report Card” from the American Lung Association assessing Minnesota’s commitment to reducing tobacco’s harm. While Minnesota received high marks in some categories, our overall grades were mixed. The state received As for the Freedom to Breathe Act and for our free QUITPLAN® Services, as well as a B for our tobacco taxes. But we also received two Fs: one for not having a Tobacco 21 law, and one for failing to fund tobacco prevention at CDC-recommended levels.
The Lung Association’s Report Card called on Minnesota to make the following four activities priorities for the future:
- Keeping tobacco prices high;
- Limiting access to menthol and other flavored tobacco products;
- Raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21; and
- Securing funding for proven tobacco prevention strategies.
ClearWay Minnesota is working to achieve all four of these goals as part of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of health organizations organizing to prevent youth smoking.