How the Land of 10,000 Lakes is Stepping Up to Help Smokers Quit
Smoking rates in Minnesota are lower than the national average, but that doesn’t mean the state is resting on its laurels. The Minnesota Department of Health provides support to a wide range of community organizations, public health bodies, and tribal governments in their efforts to further reduce the harm caused by tobacco.
Evidence-based measures such as the Clean Indoor Air policy and an initiative to keep tobacco prices high are proving to be useful tools in the fight against a habit which kills over 6,000 Minnesotans every year and costs the state over 3 billion dollars in annual medical bills.
How Minnesota is working to reduce the harm caused by tobacco
Minnesota’s Department of Health follows a distinct prevention and control strategy with the goal of saving lives and reducing the financial burden of its taxpayers. To that end, it has activated a number of initiatives to help its citizens either quit smoking or to persuade them not to start.
These initiatives include:
- Improving access to cessation resources
- Reducing youth access to tobacco products
- Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke
- Addressing tobacco-related disparities
The state has already booked first successes in moves to combat the harmful impact smoking has on its citizens. Incidents of smoking among 11th graders fell by almost 5% between 2013 and 2016, and almost 3% in adults from 2010 to 2014. But Minnesota’s Department of Health knows there is still a lot of work to do.
Many communities within the state suffer disproportionately from the effects of smoking, and efforts have been devised to treat these disparities in a way that is both community-led and culturally appropriate. Groups exposed to economic hardship, for example, are more prone to tobacco use than people from financially stable backgrounds.
Further, the percentage of 11th graders that turn to smoking differs significantly according to culture and community:
- Asian 5.9%
- Black 10.4%
- Hispanic 12.4%
- White 13.6%
- Town/Rural 16.7%
- Bi/gay/lesbian 22.5%
- Native American 22.1%
- Economic hardship 27.4%
E-cigarettes and other vaping products
The recent e-cigarette and vaping trends have gained high numbers of followers, especially among Minnesota’s youth. Health Department studies show that in 2016, 17,1% of 11th graders participated in the use of various forms of smoking, as opposed to 8,4% who smoked conventional cigarettes.
As a result, the Department has boosted efforts to raise the awareness of the highly addictive nature of these products, and the lasting damage nicotine can do to adolescent brains.
Medical assistance, grants and referral programs
Most tobacco users want to quit. Minnesotians that wish to stop smoking can take advantage of a whole range of Medical Assistance and Minnesota Care resources– including counseling and free medication.
Services such as QUITPLAN, grant programs, and the ‘Call it Quits’ referral program are just some of the resources provided free of charge and are designed to make giving up smoking as comfortable as possible.
These resources include free patches, anti-smoking gums, lozenges, nicotine sprays and inhalers, plus access to the smoking cessation aids Buproprion and Chantix.