Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Minnesota. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Minnesota calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Keep prices on tobacco products high;
- Limit access to menthol and other flavored tobacco products;
- Raise the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21; and
- Secure funding for proven tobacco prevention strategies.
During the 2017 legislative session as part of the Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation coalition, a statewide coalition with over fifty organization partners, the American Lung Association in Minnesota focused on: protecting the tax increases on all tobacco products that had been enacted several years ago and raising awareness about menthol and other flavorings in tobacco products.
A strong effort to reduce tobacco taxes in the forms of rolling back the annual increase on all tobacco products and reducing the tax on premium cigars continued during the 2017 session. The coalition provided strong messaging to defend the current tax and that Big Tobacco did not need or deserve a tax break. In spite of Governor Mark Dayton's repeatedly calling on the legislature to remove the tax breaks for Big Tobacco, ultimately the tobacco tax rollbacks were included in the tax bill.
A highlight in 2017 at the local level was the passage of the first two ordinances in the state limiting the sale of tobacco products to age 21 in Edina and St. Louis Park. A study "Raising the Minimum Legal Sale Age for Tobacco to 21 – The Estimated Effect for Minnesota" was published in the Jan/Feb 2017 version of Minnesota Medicine. Conclusions of the study confirmed that raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco to 21 would prevent the initiation of smoking among youth and young adults, resulting in reducing smoking prevalence over time.
Working together as part of the Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation, the American Lung Association in Minnesota will seek to reach the goal of securing funding for the tobacco cessation quit line in Minnesota and to make progress on advancing Tobacco 21 laws at the local or state level.