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 calls for the following actions to be taken by Minnesota's elected officials:
- Secure funding for proven tobacco cessation and prevention strategies, including investing new money for tobacco cessation services and preserving existing funding for the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership;
- Raise the tobacco sales age to 21; and
- Reduce youth access to menthol-, fruit- and candy flavored tobacco products.
Funded by the tobacco settlement, ClearWay MinnesotaSM provides QUITPLAN Services in Minnesota to help people quit. ClearWay Minnesota will end by 2022 and QUITPLAN Services will end in March of 2020. In order to assure Minnesotans continue to have access to free cessation services, funding for the Minnesota Department of Health was sought during the 2018 Legislative session. While funding was included in a final omnibus bill, the funding sources was not sustainable. Ultimately, Governor Dayton vetoed the entire omnibus supplemental budget bill. Securing funding for cessation services from long-term, sustainable funding sources will continue to be a top priority in 2019.
At the local level, a number of cities passed Tobacco 21 policies in 2018, bringing Minnesota's total number of Tobacco 21 cities to 21 as of December 2018. In addition, St. Paul, Duluth and Falcon Heights passed policies limiting youth access to menthol and other flavored tobacco products as Minneapolis had done previously in 2017.
The Minnesota Department of Health released the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey in 2018 revealing for the first time in 17 years, the youth tobacco use rate have risen. Factors contributing to this increase include the explosion of e-cigarette use, flavors that appeal to youth, and aggressive marketing of e-cigarettes. This study confirmed the urgency of raising the tobacco sales age to 21 to prevent the initiation of tobacco use among youth and young adults, resulting in reduced tobacco prevalence over time.
Working together as part of the Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation, the American Lung Association in Minnesota will pursue legislation in 2019 that makes robust investments in tobacco cessation and prevention and raises the tobacco sales age to 21. Both measures are crucial to get youth tobacco use rates in Minnesota moving in the right direction again
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