Smoking Claims More Than 6,000 Lives, Costs Minnesota Over $3 Billion Annually

New report, commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, reveals health and economic impacts of smoking; highlights need to reduce burden of tobacco-related health inequities 

Download the full Cost of Smoking Report HereEAGAN, MINN. (January 25, 2017) – A new report commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) shows that each year, smoking is responsible for 6,312 deaths and $3.19 billion in excess medical costs. The report, titled “Health Care Costs and Smoking in Minnesota,” details the significant health and economic impacts that treating the preventable diseases and conditions related to smoking – such as cancer, emphysema and heart diseases – has in Minnesota.

The economic burden on taxpayers, employers and governments equates to $593 for every adult and child in the state. Illustrated another way, the $3.19 billion in excess health care costs associated with smoking could also fund:

  • 6,380 fire trucks
  • 200 libraries
  • 58,000 four year degrees
  • 79,750 jobs at $40,000 each
  • 10 state capitol renovations

The cost of smoking continues to be a substantial burden for the state to bear, despite significant progress related to the overall smoking rate in Minnesota. While Minnesota’s smoking rate has dropped to a historic low, there are many populations that continue to smoke at disproportionately higher rates, and are more frequently targeted by tobacco industry marketing.  

For instance, low-income individuals experience significantly higher rates of smoking and smoking-related illnesses than the general population. Additionally, people suffering from mental health issues smoke at rates almost double that of the general population. And in Minnesota, 59 percent of American Indians smoke, along with approximately 24 percent of Somalis, compared to 14 percent of all Minnesota adults.

“Over the years we’ve seen great progress throughout our state, as awareness of the harms of commercial tobacco has increased, and policies have been established that protect the health of many Minnesotans,” said Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross. “However, it is clear that deep inequities persist when it comes to commercial tobacco use. As a result, many communities are at a greater risk for premature death and disease, both through the direct impacts of smoking, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke. Much work remains to reduce the burden that smoking and other tobacco-related health inequities put on our state, economic and otherwise.” 

Research for the report was completed through a consulting agreement with Dr. Robert Ohsfeldt, Regents Professor at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Andrea Lorden, Assistant Professor at Oklahoma University. A copy of the findings is available for download here.  

This initiative is part of an ongoing effort by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to improve health and advance health equity within communities throughout Minnesota. Blue Cross believes that all people, regardless of race, income, zip code or other factors, should have opportunities to live the healthiest lives possible. Advocating for tobacco control efforts and addressing barriers to good health has been a fundamental part of its work, and it will remain at the forefront of the organization’s efforts.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.

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  • 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.