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Forum editorial: Minnesota tobacco use down

The anti-tobacco work of ClearWay Minnesota in conjunction with other tobacco cessation efforts has had remarkable results in reducing smoking rates among all age groups in Minnesota. It’s a record worthy of high praise. It’s unambiguous evidence that focused, science-based anti-tobacco campaigns can work.

Numbers released last week by ClearWay show only 14.4 percent of Minnesotans smoke cigarettes, down from 22.1 percent in 1999. The decline through the time period has been steady, and corresponds to increased education and imposition of legal restrictions on smoking in public places. Add new medical research about second-hand smoke, and graphic

anti-smoking television advertising, and it appears the multi-faceted message is getting through.

But not to every age cohort.

In ClearWay statistics from 2010 to 2014, smoking hardly dipped at all (1 percent) in the 25-44 year-old group, from 19.7 percent to 18.7 percent. A similar slight improvement was measured in the 45-64 year-old cohort, compared with a huge drop (from 21.8 percent to 15.3 percent) in Minnesotans age 18-24. Which could lead to the conclusion that some Minnesotans don’t get smarter as they age. But whatever the reason, the overall percentages of all Minnesotans who smoke is down over the longer study period, and that’s good news for smokers who quit, non-smokers and reduced impacts on health costs associated with tobacco use. The trends are good.

ClearWay is not resting on its excellent record. In the eight years it has left in its mandate (funded by the national tobacco settlement of a few years back), the agency’s agenda includes raising cigarette taxes, which all studies show discourage young people from purchasing tobacco, and raising the age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. Again, research finds that raising the age to beyond high school age contributes to fewer high school students trying tobacco. New York City and Hawaii have already taken that step.

There is still much to be accomplished to achieve as smoke-free a society as possible. A lot has been done, often led by private sector companies that banned smoking from the workplace before cities and states enacted overall smoking bans in buildings and, in many instances, outdoor public spaces. Decades of research into smoking-related illness and death, and the proven health hazards of secondhand smoke, have been the underpinnings of changing public policy. ClearWay’s work and similar complementary efforts have been pivotal in changing the way enlightened Americans view tobacco use.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.