Tobacco is still a problem in Minnesota.
Fourteen percent of Minnesotans smoke—and the prevalence of tobacco use is much higher among certain groups. But the problem is about more than just numbers. It’s also about the growing influence of new products and the tobacco industry’s targeting of certain populations in our state.
For example, e-cigarettes, which are gaining in popularity, contain nicotine and other toxic chemicals. They come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children. When used indoors they threaten the integrity of our clean indoor air laws and could help renormalize smoking. E-cigarettes, along with cigars, pipes, waterpipes and smokeless tobacco, make up alternative uses for tobacco beyond cigarettes. Tobacco remains a problem in Minnesota, primarily due to these new types of products. In addition, tobacco companies aggressively target low-income Minnesotans and certain ethnic groups—resulting in higher tobacco use and higher rates of smoking-related disease among these populations.
Blue Cross has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce tobacco use in Minnesota. Our historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry resulted in changes to how cigarettes and other products could be marketed. We advocated with other community organizations to pass Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe Act, helping ensure all Minnesotans could breathe clean indoor air. And we helped pass a significant increase in the tobacco tax—one of the proven ways to help people quit smoking.
But our efforts don’t stop there. We continue to explore ways to reduce tobacco use in communities that are most disproportionately impacted. Our most recent initiative is a funding opportunity that aims to help communities eliminate tobacco inequities.
We are considering new initiatives that will tackle tobacco use among low-income Minnesotans and those who go straight to work after high school—two groups where use is significantly higher. And through our Health Equity in Prevention funding, we’re helping several organizations address tobacco-related issues at the neighborhood level.
While Minnesota remains a leader in reducing the harms of tobacco, there’s still work to do.