2014 State of Tobacco Control Report Grades Minnesota

Minnesota Sees Modest Progress In Its Fight Against Tobacco

St. Paul, Minnesota (January 22, 2014)

Fifty years after the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s report on tobacco was released in 1964, fewer Minnesotan adults are smoking, indoor workplaces are largely smoke-free and a pack of cigarettes cost more, making smoking less appealing to young people. Even so, the state could do much more to reduce tobacco use, health advocates say. Minnesota earned two “F” grades for tobacco prevention and control spending and for cessation coverage in the annual State of Tobacco Control report issued today by the American Lung Association. The poor marks were balanced somewhat by an “A” grade for smokefree air and a “B” grade for cigarette taxes – up from a “C” for taxes last year. All other grades remained unchanged from last year’s report.

“It is important to know that tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the country.” said Penny Gottier Fena, executive director of the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “Yes, we have come a long way since 1964, but we have also paid a terrible price – at least 20 million Americans have died prematurely in the past 50 years because of smoking and secondhand smoke.  If we don’t make some changes soon, 5.6 million kids under age of 18 today will die prematurely during their adulthood because of smoking.”

While Minnesota saw only modest progress in improving its tobacco report card grades this year, historically the state has played a major role in reducing the harm caused by tobacco use in America. Dr. Leonard Schuman, a professor and epidemiologist with the University of Minnesota, was a member of the 10-member commission that drafted the 1964 Surgeon General’s report. Dr. Schuman reportedly ended his with a pack-a-day smoking habit when he saw the mounting medical evidence against tobacco in the report.

In 1976, Minnesota became the first state in the union to restrict indoor smoking with the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. In 1998, the state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against the major cigarette manufacturers that was settled after 15 weeks of trial. The cash settlement was one of the largest in history and had national implications, as it opened secret tobacco company documents, banned tobacco billboards nationwide, ended paid product placement in movies, among other things.

A link to the full report is available online at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org