Targeted Populations and Commercial Tobacco Use

Nearly 25 percent of adults in Minnesota with a household incomes of $35,000 or less smoke.1

The financial and health costs of smoking are multiplied when nonsmoking friends and family are exposed to secondhand smoke, known to cause respiratory disease, heart attacks and other harms. In addition, although smokers below the poverty level are more likely to try to quit than smokers at or above the poverty level, they are less likely to be successful in quitting.

The risks of smoking cigarettes are well established. While no one chooses to become addicted to commercial tobacco, there are many reasons people start smoking. Among the enticements to start smoking are innovative commercial tobacco industry marketing techniques that have been linked to youth smoking initiation and new products, such as e-cigarettes, that are marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, as well as a means to quit smoking. 

Specifically, low-income individuals experience significantly higher rates of smoking and smoking-related health issues than the general population.2 In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of why and how low-income adults use commercial tobacco products, as well as the social context around these habits, the Center for Prevention commissioned Professional Data Analysts to complete a qualitative study on this topic in November 2014. 

The study provides insight into individuals' established smoking habits and reasons why they continue to smoke. Dozens of participants across Minnesota shared personal stories of their introduction to commercial tobacco, current usage habits and ongoing struggles. These learnings are helping the Center for Prevention identify appropriate strategies to address the needs of these specific population groups.  

Tobacco refers specifically to the use of manufactured, commercial tobacco products, and not to the sacred, medicinal and traditional use of tobacco by American Indians and other groups.

1 In 2014, ClearWay Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health released a new Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) — the most thorough and accurate source of information about tobacco use in Minnesota. The MATS survey found that Minnesota’s adult smoking rate has declined to 14.4 percent — down from 22.1 percent in 1999. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke significantly declined after the Freedom to Breathe Act was implemented in October 2007. The report identifies areas for improvement as well, including a striking increase in the use of smokeless tobacco products.
2 Smoking in Low Socioeconomic Status Populations: Prevalence, Health Impact, Challenges and Recommendations, Break Free Alliance:

  • 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.