Youth Smoking Rates Have Fallen to Historic Lows in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health recently released its 2016 Minnesota Student Survey results, which showed strong progress in some areas and opportunities for improvement in others. For instance, fewer kids are smoking cigarettes, but nearly 1 in 5 high school juniors are using e-cigarettes.
Compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Center for Health Statistics, the survey found that in 2016, eight percent of 11th graders smoked cigarettes, a record low and down from 12 percent in the last survey conducted in 2013.
However, 2016 was the first year questions about flavored tobacco and e-cigarette use were included in the survey – and these questions produced some significant numbers. Among young tobacco users surveyed, 35 percent said they used menthol products, and 40 percent said they used other flavors. And just over 17 percent of 11th graders reported use of electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days.
The harms of commercial tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – are clear. The nicotine in these products is detrimental to adolescent brain development and highly addictive. Nearly all adult smokers started in their teens. 

Compounding this issue is that certain communities are more frequently targeted by tobacco industry marketing and are at a greater risk for premature death and disease. For example, the percentage of all 11th graders who smoke is 8.4%, but that number is more than double for American Indian 11th graders, at 17.4%. The number is even higher for students experiencing severe economic hardship: 21.7%.
In the Center for Prevention, we remain deeply committed to supporting initiatives that will help reduce these disparities. For instance, in an effort to reduce commercial tobacco use among those targeted by the tobacco industry, the Center for Prevention created its Communities Eliminating Tobacco Inequities initiative, committing $2.8 million in funding through 2018. And through our Health Equity in Prevention funding, we’re helping several organizations address tobacco-related issues at the neighborhood level. 

Despite the progress made in Minnesota, much work remains to be done.
  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.