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.