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Editorial: A look at tobacco use in Minnesota

Published 9:00am Thursday, August 25, 2011

The air in Minnesota might be cleaner since the state Legislature and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty passed the statewide smoking ban for workplaces in 2007; however, that doesn’t mean tobacco use isn’t still a major health problem.

It just means the people who tend to be well-educated — thus, the people who vote more regularly — are exposed to a lot less of it.

Let’s go over some figures. And there is some good news.

According to the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey, cigarette smoking rates in Minnesota continue to decline and are around 16 percent, down from 17 percent in 2007 and 19 percent in 2004.

Cigarette smoking rates nationwide are the same as 2004, at about 20 percent.

Minnesota is headed in the right direction.

Still, people in Minnesota without a high school diploma are at 21.6 percent, down from 24.7 in 2007. Minnesotans with some college or tech school education have a rate of 20 percent, up from 17.7 in 2007.

College graduates in Minnesota have a smoking rate of 4.8 percent, down from 5.9 in 2007.

Exposure to secondhand smoke in Minnesota is dropping fast. The survey shows 45.6 percent of people had been exposed to secondhand smoke within the last seven days of taking the survey, which was down from 56.7 in 2007 and 67.2 percent in 2003.

Use of smokeless tobacco is up. Among all Minnesotans, 4.3 percent use smokeless tobacco products, an increase from 3.1 percent in 2007.

The survey revealed that people who do smoke are smoking less frequently and many are trying to quit. In 2010, 54.6 percent of smokers stopped smoking for at least one day in efforts to quit cigarettes, with 46.3 percent of them using a medication.

Educated people tend to be the ones who want to learn and are willing to base habits on knowledge they possess. After all, cigarette smoking is the largest cause of preventable death in the state. Still, it would be easy to say more needs to be done to reach the less educated and the stubborn. Clearly, a lot is being done, and progress is being made. ClearWay Minnesota can attest to that.

Sometimes progress is two steps forward and one step back.

And, as always, progress in the fight against tobacco use will require time, as the way one generation sees cigarette smoking and tobacco use gives way to the viewpoints of the following generations.

  1. Robert Moffitt

    Well said, AL Tribune!