What more should Minnesota do to prevent smoking?

The American Lung Association gave Minnesota a mixed grade last week for its anti-smoking efforts. About 23 percent of the state’s high school students smoke, which is more than the national average. What more should Minnesota do to prevent smoking?

Comments texted to MPR:

Start educating kids on smoking in kindergarten by showing them pictures & make sure they know the dangers starting at a very young age. -Janna, Lindstrom, MN

I would much rather pay a flat 2 percent state tax with a mandatory health care plan than ever be forced to pay anything. It seems like the plan ahead will ruin what it means to me to be free. I am not proud to be an American anymore. -Wes, Minneapolis, MN

  • Laura G

    Reduce the number of outlets from which they can be purchased. Not have them available at every convenience store. Make it inconvenient.

  • We know that youth-led programs like Target Market can reduce the rate of smoking in Minnesota. We need to stop raiding the tobacco settlement funds to fill gaps in the state’s budget. It’s time to again make an investment in the health of Minnesota’s citizens.

    BTW: Thanks for the shout-out!

    Robert Moffitt

    Communications Director

    American Lung Association in Minnesota

  • Chad

    Issue permits to current smokers. Make it illegal to start smoking.

    Smoking shouldn’t be considered a right– In my opinion, it’s just like dangerous driving or suicide. It puts the smoker and others in serious danger.

  • bsimon

    Minnesota should question the premise that the state should tell people what to do. We’ll all be better off if we focus on giving our populace the tools to educate themselves about risks & empower individuals to make up their own minds.

  • Joanna

    Make smoking very expensive, very inconvenient and very unfashionable to kids. Peer pressure is very important.

    Anti-smoking education campaigns in grade school so kids see clearly from an early age what happens to their lungs when they smoke: show a slice of a healthy lung and one of a smokers lung. (it scared me off starting, and both my parents smoked!)

    Crack down on stores selling cigarettes to minors the way we crack down on bars serving underage drinkers. All the kids at my daughter’s high school walk one block to a store to buy their cigarettes. No cigarette sales without ID.

    Issue citations to underage smokers AND to the parents of underage smokers; provide smoking cessation support.

  • Joan

    Programs like Target Market were extremely successful at detering smoking among teens. We need to fund that program and similar successful programs and stop raiding the Tobacco Settlement funds that were set aside specifically for these efforts. The Legislature and the Governor should not divert those funds to other purposes.

  • eric wright

    We must make these candy flavored orange and vanilla cigarettes illegal. These products are NOT marketed to existing smokers of legal smoking age. Anyone who has been smoking has decided on their brand and flavor. they are uninterested in switching for any reason other than price. these mint and dark chocolate smokes don’t appeal to your average 30 year old pack a day smoker. they appeal and are marketed to high school students. I think that is a clear violation of current law and that they should be taken from the shelves immediately.


  • James


    Shoot – Shovel – Shush.

    Apply this method, word gets around… problem solved:-)


  • Julie

    The programs funded from the tobacco settlement actually reduced youth smoking rates in just five years, but those funds were lost in the last big budget deficit in 2003. We need a longer term vision for Minnesota’s budget so that public health programs aren’t the first thing cut when we have a deficit.

  • Garyf

    Stop Smoking? WHAT?

    When I see kids smoking I tell them….

    “keep smoking, Obama needs the tax revenue” or “smoke’m if you got’m, there is a Democrat that needs a spending fix”.

    Hey folks, we have a huge budget deficit! For all the “Happy to pay” people, cigarette taxes are a great voluntary tax!

  • Garyf

    The State is addicted to the tax revenue.

  • Peggy and Jim Anderson

    Thanks for smoking!

    -Your local undertaker

    The best way to reduce youth smoking is to raise the price of tobacco products. Thi swill prevent tens of thousands of Minneosta kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

  • Jessica

    Price kids out of the market, raise the price of ALL tobacco products! Minnesota hasn’t raised its tobacco tax in 5 years. As it stands the health care cost of smoking equals about $8.85 a pack, with state and federal taxes on cigarettes only being about $3.22. That means that you and I are paying $623 (each year) out of our taxes to pay for smoker’s health care costs. It’s time to stop subsidizing smoking and increase the tax on tobacco.

  • Tom

    Tobacco companies spend massive amounts of money ($12.49 billion in 2006) on advertising and promotions. They spend the money because it gets results. It’s a constant challenge for them to find new customers because existing adult customers continue to die or quit using their products. Most adult smokers get started in middle school or high school. A significant increase in Minnesota’s tobacco sales tax would discourage kids from starting to smoke. The revenue generated by a sales tax increase should be use to fund youth tobacco prevention programs.

  • Ellie

    Raise the tax on tobacco products. A 10% increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes translates into a 7% reduction in youth smoking and 4% reduction in adults (www.tobaccofreekids.org).

  • kelly

    Educate, educate, educate! Nicotine is as addictive as any other hard street drug out there! Getting off of nicotine is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. If cigarettes weren’t so hollywood glamourized and were looked at as meth is, then the appeal would go down for kids to even start smoking.

    I also think we need to support a inpatient program for those that want to quit, just like any other drug out there. Ask me if I’d want to do 30, 60, 90 days inpatient when I was quitting and I would of taken the offer. It could of shaved off 10 years of me trying to quit on my own to have professional help. Addiction is addiction, regardless of the drug and nicotine is one pretty heavy duty drug.

  • Garyf

    I can’t afford to smoke, never could.

    Maybe I’m not rich enough to smoke.

  • Penny

    Support Kids Against Tobacco and Target Market programs to prevent youth from picking up the habit, and increase the tax on tobacco to deter adults.

    Last year in my county there were 12 cancer deaths, 4 from lung cancer. Smoking can cause as many as 15 different kinds of cancer. Reduce smoking and we will reduce cancer incidents and deaths. Smoking cessation is the most controllable way to reduce cancer rates.

    As a cancer survivor (not from tobacco), I tell my smoking friends that I hope they enjoy surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as much as they enjoy their cigarettes.

  • Drew

    I think Americans are paranoid about everything – while you quit the smoking you might as well quit drinking tap water, water from plastic bottles, stop breathing the air outside… heck stop breathing all together. And if that doesn’t kill you then don’t go out in the sun, use hairspray,…etc. I’m a non-smoker but I think if people want to smoke… let em. In a way we are making smokers second class citizens. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER! People get lung cancer who have never even been around second hand smoke. So who’s gonna be the first person walking around in a plastic bubble?… quick someone make one!!!!

  • Kelly

    Regulate e-cigarettes. They are being sold in malls and convenience stores without being regulated, even minors can buy these products! We need to include e-cigarettes in the Freedome to Breathe Act and make it illegal to use e-cigs indoors as they are not deemed a safe alternative to smoking by the FDA.

  • steve Prill

    Here’s a thought mind you it will never happen but,take them to a hospital let them see what cancer does to a person,my mother was a vibrant,a good looking mom. Less than a year later my mom did’nt even look like my mother anymore. It was sad,scary,and brutally ugly.

  • Jeanne

    Minnesota annually spends less per person on tobacco prevention than the cost of a single pack of cigarettes. We need a long term vision and financial committment if we are going to reduce smoking, the leading preventable cause of death and driver of health care expenses.

    Each time we make a wee bit of progress, program funding is shifted away from prevention programming. It requires a long term committment, not just two years of low level funding, to impact this long term problem.

  • Tom

    Has anyone ever considered that maybe we shouldn’t be spending additional money the prevention of smoking? Why do we assume that throwing more money at the problem will solve it?

    I believe that we have reached a “plateau” in smoking prevention. That is, we have regulated the industry and educated the public to the point of diminishing returns and that further investment will not yield significant results.

    We have to look at this problem logically, and not simply through an emotional prism.

  • J. Smith

    It should not be the state’s job to tell people how to live their lives. However, if the law says that people under 18 cannot buy or be given cigarettes, then the law should go after the people selling or otherwise providing tobacco products to minors.

  • kt

    Maybe Parents should actually do their job.

    So often people complain about how the State isn’t doing enough for my kid, or the University isn’t teaching my kid to not drink so much, …

    How about people actually take responsibility for something that is their #1 job: raise your own child. If you want the state to raise your kid then put them into foster care and go on your merry way where giving to charity and paying taxes, though not actually taking action yourself, somehow means you made a difference.

  • Cindy

    Reminder: if you have health insurance, you most likely have access to a free tobacco quitline. Use the benefits you already have! Double your success rate in quitting tobacco by using your insurer’s quitline coaching.

    Uninsured people can call Clearway Minnesota’s quitline: 1-888-354-7526 or https://www.quitnow.net/quitplan/

  • Edward Ehlinger

    Since the Freedom to Breathe Act was passed, the main source of second hand smoke for many people is in public parks and on college campuses. These places of recreation and education that encourage health and development should be made smoke-free.

  • Anne

    As a parent, when I heard that tobacco companies spend over $200 million in Minnesota on marketing every year, I was shocked. Not to mention that e-cigarettes can be sold to minors and are marketed as a “healthy alternative” and so called “little cigars” which are really candy flavored cigarettes are sold for around $2.00 a pack. I wish I could be with my kids every second of everyday and make sure that they make good decisions and I pray that I have taught them well, but the truth is we parents could use a little help fighting back against these big tobacco companies trying to make a buck at the expense of my children’s health (trying to make them “replacement smokers”). The state needs to regulate these products and make them MUCH more expensive!

  • John Tobin

    The age of onset of smoking is proven to be a price-sensitive phenomenon: as the price of cigarettes goes up, fewer youth initiate smoking, unquestionably a laudable goal. I suspect that price also has a similar effect on consumption by current smokers. What would be wrong with increasing the tax on cigarettes to help pay for the health care of those who are affected by smoking, both the smokers and those exposed to second hand smoke? These funds should not be diverted from health care into other, politically more palatable areas. Politicians need the courage to recognize that such a move is not “class warfare”, but rather, good public health policy. Better language than “sin tax” would be “user fee,” as we all end up paying some of the health care costs of smoking, and this would both lower the smoking rate and shift the cost more appropriately to those who generate it.

  • Julie, Red Wing

    If the law doesn’t let our youth legally drink alcoholic beverages until age 21, why are we letting them have a choice at age 18 to do something that is highly addictive and certainly bad for their health? Make the legal age to purchase tobacco products 21. Hopefully these young adults will have matured enough to figure out they don’t want to start a bad habit.

  • Steven

    There is strong evidence that raising the price of cigarettes through higher taxes reduces teen smoking. But smoking by teens will never go down for good until smoking becomes uncool. The tobacco companies know that, and they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and new products to make smoking attractive to kids. It is important to make smoking unattractive as well as very costly. We can do that by regulating new tobacco products, reducing the use of tobacco in public by movie stars and athletes, and prohibiting smoking in all remaining public places, such as casinos and parks. We can win this battle for our kids’ health.

  • DNA

    Legalize cannabis and implement Salvia divinorum and Ibogaine treatments for addiction.




  • MB

    The best deterrent to smoking by our youth is to increase both the price and the tax. It’s tough when you have to make a decision to either buying a pack or a CD, or spend the dollars on cigarettes for the week or a tank of gas for the car. The tax increase could help offset the unmanageable costs of healthcare. We all need to start making healthier lifestyle choices.

  • Pat

    Commit the tobacco settlement dollars (over $200 million every year come to MN) to fudning the best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. These are programs that are PROVEN to work, no second guessing about how to reduce health care costs – reduce tobacco use.

  • DNA

    Education is the key, prohibition fails, informed choices work best.




  • Joy F

    The loss of life and significant health burden and medical costs caused by smoking can be easily avoided if one never starts smoking (let’s make it more costly, less advertised and less cool to start smoking). Also, research focused on helping people kick the addition to smoking is much needed (we need more and better drugs, devices and foods/dietary supplements to help the masses who smoke to kick the habit). MN should step up to become the best state in the union to stop/prevent smoking and to directly improve our health as a result. Let’s make every public place in MN smoke free (including casinos and bars) and help smokers to stop smoking.

  • Debby

    Well, I certainly do not give any points to the Legislature and (wanna- be-president) Tim Pawlenty for moving funds from the tobacco settlement to other programs. Target Market was intended to deter youth from smoking and did a wonderful and effective job.

    I agree with Laura G. who said ” Reduce the number of outlets from which they can be purchased. Make it inconvenient.” Make them work to give themselves (and those around them) cancer. Could work, Americans can be very lazy.

    Here is another idea, help tobacco farmers to find another customer that can use their land. They can’t grow it if they don’t have the soil.

    The rest of my comments are nothing new…

    1. Drastically tax all tobacco products

    2. Educate children in the schools, on the bus, in the mall, in text messages, posters in the gym, on the big screens at sporting events, on the internet, etc…

    3. Make the reduction of tobacco use a public health priority

    4. And…here is the dream. Look at the benefits of helping our entire country to go smoke free!

  • Ellen

    The persuasion to start smoking still affects our youth the most – 90% of smokers start smoking before they turn 18. I believe our efforts should include creating more smoke free environments (e.g., college campuses and public parks). Here in Minnesota , we have learned that this approach, rather than being punitive to people who use tobacco, is actually supportive to them – it removes “triggers” to smoke from their environment, and can nudge them into getting the help they need to quit.

  • Melissa

    Published research studies have found that kids are more likely to be influenced to smoke by cigarette marketing than by peer pressure, and that one-third of underage experimentation with smoking is attributable to tobacco company advertising. Do something about tobacco products designed to appeal to kids. Tobacco products that come in flavors like peach, chocolate, grape, strawberry and watermelon are targeting our kids.

  • Brenda

    We need to continue to pass policies that make it more expensive to smoke, inconvenient, and protects the rights of nonsmokers. We need to put extra emphasis on protecting children by passing smoke-free car laws and smoke-free homes when children are present. Nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Club, 4-H, and the Search Institute need to stop accepting donations from the tobacco industry and allowing their name to be used to sell cigarettes.

  • Jenny N

    To those who state that smoking is a personal decision, I ask what is personal about harming those around you (including children), the environment, and using our tax dollars to subsidise their giant health care bills.

    If you think parents are the only answer to this issue, I would like to find out what you were doing at 16 or 17 that your parents didn’t want you to do. Maybe it wasn’t smoking, but parents aren’t the only ones to blame here.

    MN needs to give back the funds to Target Market and other anit-smoking efforts and raise taxes on cigarettes. Both of these things are proven to reduce youth smoking.

  • Terence

    Wes, We know that smoking is fun for social and compulsive smokers but why keep telling yourself that a smoker is exercising a freedom which is both an unacceptable pollutant in the workplace and for children, as well as an expensive addiction.

    …My suggestion to reduce adult smoking is to exclude smokers who won’t try to quit from your apartment or house gatherings until they go on the patch or quit once and for all.

    Upping the tax does little to deter most young or adults in my experience.

    Plan C would require those at high risk of relaspe to wear a smoke detector on their foreheads!

  • Roshan

    A few things ideas:

    – Stop tobbaco advertisers from targeting kids from racial and minority communities

    – Use social media to discourage tobbaco use among kids (a campaign led by youth leaders)


    – Increase in the state cigarette tax

    – reduce exposure to second-hand smoke

  • Brad P

    Growing up in this day and age, we are conditioned to believe that everything is bad for you and can cause cancer. Talk on the phone–get cancer. Watch too much tv–get cancer. Teens today are so overloaded about what is bad for them that it creates a numbing effect. Nearly every teen in America will be able to tell you that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. What I don’t think every teen in America understands is the idea of addiction. More emphasis should be put on the fact that nicotine (and the carcinogens added by tobacco companies to increase its absorbtion) enslaves people to tobacco.

  • Lynn

    I don’t think that it is a surprise that MN is still above the national average regarding teen smoking, considering the limited amount of money that was allocated to focus on this specific population. In addition, I think we need to continue to make smoking cessation programs available to adults that smoke, so that they can provide healthy models for children and teens.

  • Laurie

    I agree with some of the previous commentators:

    -raise the tax on cigarettes- a lot!

    -target more quit smoking education to teens

    -raise the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 or 65

    – as much as the tobacco companies work to hook young people, we need to work to make smoking uncool and let them know they are being manipulated into becoming nicotine addicts. Raise their awareness and they may rebell against the tobacco companies.

  • Sara

    My job involves prevention. What I have learned is that elementary to early middle school students are the group to reach for prevention, and they get it. But somewhere from 7th to 12th grade, peer pressure, coping with stress, and the need to be in control of something in their lives takes over. Mentorship seems to be the only real thing that works. Parents need to see their children need them as much at this age as they did when they were toddlers. Their brain is actively trying to decide what works and what doesn’t in life. Unfortunately some youth will never have parents that step up to the plate to be there. Then it becomes all of our responsibility to be an example, to talk to youth about addiction and consequences of their actions. Standing by and not saying anything leaves us with more tobacco addiction and more health issues to pay for as taxpayers, insurance plan enrollees, etc. Sooner or later it becomes all of our problem. Why not start by giving our youth the time of day and teach them how to be their own person and how to cope with stress in a healthy way and to use what they can control to their advantage for success. Our culture wants an easy fix for everything from pain to weight issues and more. Build the relationships that teach the lifeskills youth need to make better and informed decisions and to do the work involved to be successful. It is all of our job.

    Keep the prevention going in middle school, but don’t expect the schools and the government to pick up the mess if we don’t all follow through and do our job as elders our community.

  • Mary

    I think the only thing left to do is make smoking tobacco illegal. It’s the only legal product on the market that has more bad health affects than anything else. I know the argument that alcohol is just as bad health wise. Not exactly true, but alcohol only affects the person that uses it. It sure would take a huge swipe out of health care costs in this country if we got rid of tobacco.

  • Drew

    remember prohibition… didn’t we learn how that turned out? Do what you want… the air itself will kill you just as fast as second hand smoke. What are you gonna do about that?

    ~ A non smoker

  • Heidi

    One of the best ways reduce youth smoking is to raise the price of tobacco products.

  • Brian Rank

    As an oncologist, medical director of the HealthPartners Medical Group and a member of the Minnesota Cancer Alliance, I support policies that will reduce access to, and the availability of tobacco products to people of all ages — especially youth. Such policies could include tax increases on tobacco products, limiting access to tobacco-like products and expanding smoke free spaces in our state. — Brian Rank M.D.

  • Dorothy Roof

    I believe the best way to cut down on youth smoking is to raise taxes on cigarettes and all smoking products. Dorothy R.

  • Marcus

    As someone who is severely allergic to nicotine, this may come across as a little bias. Ban smoking in ALL public areas, indoors and out, and make smoking a ticketable offense, much the way speeding is on our highway system.

  • Donald

    Look, tobacco has been smoked even before it’s discovery by Columbus. At one time centuries ago Russia imposed the death penalty for tobacco, (how ironic). Did that stop the Russians back then? Unlikely. Tobacco has become so ingrained in humanity nothing will stop people from using it. The state can make a pack cost $100.. why not $500, doesn’t matter. I’m surprised there’s not more of a black market of smuggling to counter this virtual prohibition already. Making something illegal doesn’t make it magically go away, it just goes underground creating more crime and expense in the process. Canada actually had to lower it’s cigarette tax due to the organized crime it generated. There comes a breaking point where the higher a tax gets and the cost to society to enforce it.

    And STOP this nonsense about Big Tobacco targeting kids. When was the last time you saw tobacco advertising of any kind lately? This is an old argument that is no longer relevant. In the US tobacco advertising is virtually extinct!

    Doctors, is there a specifically defined age I must live to before my death is not “premature”? Who decides? Every death has a cause and 10 out 10 people die, perfect odds. Cancer and heart disease affect smokers and non-smokers alike. What guarantee do I have of not getting cancer if I don’t smoke? So if your concern is life and longevity, why do you charge us $90+ just to sit in your office for 15 minutes?

    All this really amounts to is finger pointing in the blame game. It’s in our fallen nature to make ourselves better then the next guy in a moral context so lets make lepers out of smokers. Then we will all feel better, won’t we.

  • Patti Maguire

    Continuing making smoking very uncomfortable and inconvenient for smokers – not many Minnesotans like standing outside in the cold for a smoke.

    Also, please raise the State tax on cigarettes – young people, in particular, really can’t afford to smoke.

  • Purchase and distribute “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr to all!

  • pamela gold

    Tobacco Companies programs are not helping people to stop smoking. However, the companies can open an inpatient rehab program which will help people with quitting. Being a former smoker Nicotine Withdrawal is very painful physically, mentally and emotionally. People who smoke can justify the habit usually due to “I have to smoke when I drink or after a good meal or snack” depression, anxiety and weight gain.

    Quitting is a life style change. Inpatient programs need to be in place assist with weight gain and therapy.

  • Sharon

    I continue to find it ironic that kids that attend alternative learning schools actually get a smoke break. I must be missing something. Why would we allow this practice? Where are the teachers and why don’t they call the cops instead of letting them break the law?

  • Hillary Hittner, LADC, CTTS

    Gosh. I could talk for hours about this…I work as an addictions counselor/interventionist and as a tobacco treatment specialist. I have also worked in prevention. Since we know up to 90% of people in early recovery smoke I believe treatment programs NEED to address tobacco use and not just merely diagnose them as nicotine dependent but mandate the clients to attend a lecture, a group or two on tobacco recovery–lead by someone trained in tobacco cessation. AA/NA/CA/etc includes a lot of smoking cigs and drinking coffee…it continues to foster tobacco addiction while the cofounders bob and bill died from tobacco related diseases…ALSO as far as the onset of tobacco use beginning in adolescence such as other experimentation to other drugs…I read a study once that made a lot of sense. They had the “cool” kids either promoting prevention or quitting smoking. The school showed a reduction of tobacco use among students. I also believe an accurate education about what tobacco use actually does to the stress cycle is helpful for many people trying to quit as well as a considerable amount of time addressing and increasing motivation to change. I could go on and on…www.getunhookednow.com

  • Lynn

    1) Educate. Done

    My 3 Minnesota public school educated children have received constant smoking, drinking, and red meat will kill you information for 13 years in school. Graphic pictures were presented each year in health and science classes. Anti-smoking campaigns were incorporated into English classes. Anti-smoking posters plastered the halls.

    2) Make smokers pay more in insurance premiums. Done.

    3) Convice our Mr. Cool, progressive President to quit? Fat Chance.

    4) President Obama, think of the 443,000 people who die each year from smoking, quit smoking and drinking in the White House, YOU are setting a bad example for our children.

  • chris

    There is a reason tobacco companies target our youth – most people who are addicted to nicotine/tobacco have become addicted before the age of 22. The best way to reduce youth smoking is to raise the price of cigarettes through taxation and to eliminate all marketing to children, flavored cigarettes and regulate e-cigarettes that are available in malls and convenience stores.

  • Tina Stevens

    I feel that people should be able to smoke if they choose to. If they want to pay more for cigarettes then let them. They are working for their money and they can choose how to spend it. It seems as though the government is trying to gain more and more control over people by telling them when and where they can smoke, and constantly telling them how bad it is. What about all the money that is spent on welfare? If people chose to smoke, let them. Just as people are able to decide if they want to drink alcohol. If problems come out of it, they will have to pay the consequences. All this time and energy is spent on judging people for smoking….just let people decide when the time is right for them to quit. This society is based on control and telling lecturing them about what is right and wrong. People can make their own choices and decisions!

  • Tim Islanders

    Why does everyone worry about what the smokers are doing?

  • Surprisingly well-written and inofrtmavie for a free online article.