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:
1. Prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products;
2. Secure sustainable funding for proven tobacco prevention strategies; and
3. Raise the tax on all tobacco products by significant amounts.

During the 2020 Legislative Session, the American Lung Association – as part of the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, statewide coalition of more than 60 organizations – focused on: increasing the state tobacco sale age to 21, prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, securing long-term funding for tobacco prevention and addressing clean air for kids in cars. The COVID-19 pandemic added urgency for adopting stronger tobacco prevention polices and helping smokers quit.
Early studies found COVID-19 may be particularly dangerous for people with lungs weakened by chronic disease, asthma and tobacco use.

Minnesota became the 25th state to adopt the lifesaving Tobacco 21 policy and has one of the strongest laws passed among those states. Raising the tobacco age to 21 aligns the state with federal law and will help keep tobacco products out of Minnesota's middle and high schools.

Ongoing advocacy from youth, parents, physicians and other advocates built Minnesota's Tobacco 21 movement, and the 70+ local communities that raised the local tobacco age to 21 paved the way. Ultimately, Tobacco 21 gained bipartisan support from lawmakers across Minnesota.

Several legislative proposals to reduce youth tobacco use – including prevention funding and ending the sale of flavored tobacco products – advanced in the beginning of Minnesota's 2020 Legislative Session. In the House, the bill to prohibit flavored tobacco products passed through two committees and was ready for a floor vote. The Legislature also considered several proposals to invest in tobacco prevention to continue that work long after ClearWay Minnesota – the state's primary funder of tobacco prevention and counter marketing campaigns – closes its doors in 2021.

Finally, lawmakers introduced and advanced a bill to protect kids in cars from secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol. However, these bills lost momentum once lawmakers turned their focus to the state's COVID-19 response. To address tobacco-related health disparities and combat rising youth tobacco use, Minnesota needs comprehensive legislative action.

A 2020 survey of Minnesota voters on tobacco issues funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation found overwhelming public support for tobacco prevention measures including: 74% support for prohibiting flavored tobacco products, 64% support a $15 million increase in tobacco prevention funding and 62% support increasing tobacco taxes. The wide-ranging support crossed political divides and was high in all demographics and regions of the state. The poll questions and responses are available online:

Working together as part of the Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation, in 2021 the American Lung Association will pursue legislation that restricts access to all flavored tobacco products – especially menthol, increases the tax on tobacco products and provides long-term funding dedicated for tobacco prevention.
  • Minnesota Facts
  • Economic Cost Due to Smoking: $2,519,011,064

  • Adult Smoking Rate: 14.6%

  • High School Smoking Rate: 5.3%

  • High School Tobacco Use Rate: 28.0%

  • Middle School Smoking Rate: 2.4%

  • Smoking Attributable Deaths per Year: 5,910

Adult smoking data come from CDC's 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. High school (11th grade only) smoking and tobacco use and middle school (8th grade only) smoking rates are taken from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey. High school tobacco use results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

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