St. Paul, MN (02/22/17) – Hundreds of Minnesota middle and high school students rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol today, calling on lawmakers to keep kids from a lifetime of addiction and disease caused by tobacco.
Nearly 20 percent of Minnesota youth still use tobacco products. If smokers do not start as youth or young adults, they likely never will. Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started by the time they turned 21.
“Today, youth advocates shared their stories about how Big Tobacco continues to target them on social media and in their communities,” said Molly Moilanen, Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 50 organizations across Minnesota who share the goal of ending youth smoking. “Lawmakers can show Minnesotans they prioritize the health of our kids over tobacco industry profits by passing bold public policies.”
Specifically, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation advocates will ask legislators to support three policy priorities this year:
- Restricting sales of flavored tobacco products. The tobacco industry uses candy, fruit and menthol flavors to attract the next generation of smokers, and most young smokers started with flavored products. Restricting the sale of these products will create a healthier future for our kids.
- Raising the tobacco age to 21. A national consensus is growing to prevent addictions and future health problems by ensuring that those who sell tobacco products do so to adults who are 21 and older. Increasing the age gap between kids and those who can legally buy tobacco helps remove access to tobacco products from schools.
- Keeping tobacco prices high. Higher prices prevent kids from starting to smoke, and are also proven to help existing smokers quit. We support SF 1158, which restricts the tobacco industry from using coupons to manipulate prices, and we oppose HF123/SF849, which drastically cuts the tax on so-called premium cigars. Since a tobacco tax increase in 2013, smoking in Minnesota has dropped, and fewer young people are starting to smoke – but far too many still do.
“Minnesota has made a lot of progress over the years in reducing tobacco’s harm, but there is more work to do if we want a smoke-free future,” said Janelle Waldock, Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Some Minnesotans suffer disparate harm from tobacco. We need to address disparities in tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases in African American, American Indian and LGBTQ communities for example – and the place to start is by preventing young people from getting hooked on tobacco products in the first place.”
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. 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.
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, Tobacco Free Alliance, Twin Cities Medical Society and WellShare International.