End of Session signals missed opportunity to help smokers and protect kids

Health community expresses hope for next Session

St. Paul, MN (05/26/17) – Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of 50 leading Minnesota health organizations, expressed disappointment that both the House and Senate passed bills without funding a tobacco quitline, meaning Minnesota smokers may be left without proven quitting help in the future.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Minnesota, responsible for more than $7 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity,” said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs for ClearWay Minnesota and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Our lawmakers should support measures that bring down the smoking rate, including quitting services.”

The final Health and Human Services Finance bill didn’t include a state-run tobacco quitline. Previous versions of the bill had included a provision, introduced by Representative Dario Anselmo (R-Edina), that would have done so. Refusing to fund a quitline could mean those who need help quitting smoking in the future won’t get it, especially after existing services for smokers end in 2020.

The state budget does continue to fully fund the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP). SHIP funds initiatives to expand opportunities for active living, healthy eating and tobacco-free living.

“We are glad that the final budget funds SHIP, but it’s irresponsible not to invest in a quitline as well,” said Janelle Waldock, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Minnesota collected $815 million in tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments in 2016 – more than enough to support prevention and cessation. Governor Dayton and legislators should make quitline funding a priority next year.”

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation also expressed dismay earlier this week when the House and Senate passed a tax bill containing nearly $50 million in tax benefits for the tobacco industry.

Additionally, this year Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) introduced legislation increasing the tobacco sale age to 21. With Edina recently becoming the first city in Minnesota to raise the age, momentum is building for this issue to be considered at the Capitol in 2018.

“Almost 95 percent of adult smokers started by 21,” said Moilanen. “Increasing the tobacco age will prevent young people from starting and help create a smoke-free generation in Minnesota."

ABOUT MINNESOTANS FOR A SMOKE-FREE GENERATION

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of Minnesota organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. Each year in Minnesota tobacco use is responsible for more than 6,300 deaths and more than $3 billion in preventable health care costs. 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21. The coalition supports policies that prevent initiation and reduce youth smoking, including keeping tobacco prices high, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco prevention programs.

Partners include: A Healthier Southwest, African American Leadership Forum, Allina Health, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Apple Tree Dental, Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota, Becker County Energize, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare Health, Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, ClearWay MinnesotaSM, Comunidades Latinos Unidas En Servicio – CLUES, Essentia Health, Four Corners Partnership, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, HealthEast, HealthPartners, Hennepin County Medical Center, Hope Dental Clinic, Indigenous Peoples Task Force, ISAIAH, LAAMPP Institute, Lake Region Healthcare, Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Local Public Health Association of Minnesota, March of Dimes, Mayo Clinic, Medica, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, Minnesota Public Health Association, Model Cities of St. Paul, Inc., NAMI Minnesota, North Memorial Health Care, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, Perham Health, Rainbow Health Initiative, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Tobacco Free Alliance, Twin Cities Medical Society,UCare and WellShare International. Find out more at: smokefreegenmn.org.

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    Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of Minnesota organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. Each year in Minnesota tobacco use is responsible for more than 6,300 deaths and more than $3 billion in preventable health care costs and 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21. The coalition supports policies that reduce youth smoking, including keeping tobacco prices high, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco prevention programs.

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