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Smoking Rate Falls Dramatically Among Minnesotans
Date:9/9/2008

New report finds 164,000 fewer smokers

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Findings from the latest Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS), released today, show that Minnesota is making significant progress in reducing tobacco use. The survey -- conducted by ClearWay Minnesota(SM), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health -- found that Minnesota's adult smoking rate has declined to a new low of 17 percent. That figure is down approximately 5 percentage points since 1999 and represents 164,000 fewer smokers. Minnesota's declines are impressive compared to national trends, where smoking rates appear to have stalled at about 20 percent since 2004.

"This dramatic decline in the smoking rate means that fewer Minnesota families will suffer the health and economic devastation of tobacco-related diseases," said Dr. Barbara Schillo, Director of Research Programs for ClearWay Minnesota. "Minnesotans should be proud that our state's comprehensive program to reduce tobacco use, incorporating smoke-free policies, tobacco price increases, education and state-of-the-art cessation services for all Minnesotans, is working and producing remarkable results."

Released every four years, the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey is the most thorough and accurate source of information about smoking rates and tobacco-related behaviors, attitudes and beliefs in the adult Minnesota population, and serves as a tool for measuring the progress of Minnesota's tobacco prevention efforts. Previous MATS were conducted in 1999 and 2003.

Other Key Findings from MATS 2007 include:

-- Fewer young adults are smoking -- Smoking rates for young adults (18-24-year-olds) declined 8 percentage points, from 36.8 percent in 2003 to 28.4 percent in 2007, which means that there are 42,000 fewer young adult smokers than in 2003.

-- The majority of smokers want to quit and more are getting help -- More than half (56.7 percent) of Minnesota adults who smoked in the past 12 months attempted to quit in the past year. The percent of smokers who used counseling during their last quit attempt is up from 3.6 percent in 2003 to 14.9 percent in 2007. Getting help greatly increases a person's chances of being successful in quitting.

-- Higher tobacco prices and smoke-free policies help people quit -- Increasing the price of cigarettes and establishing more smoke-free places* was found to have supported quitting efforts. The 75-cent Health Impact Fee, which went into effect in 2005, helped current smokers to make a quit attempt (26.3 percent). Additionally, smoke-free policies also helped current smokers to make a quit attempt (28.1 percent).

"Quitting smoking is difficult, and we are very encouraged that in the past four years Minnesota has made great strides in reversing the alarming trend of high smoking rates among young adults," said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Health. "An 8 percentage point drop is very encouraging, but 18-24-year-olds still have the highest smoking rate and that's where we must redouble our efforts."

While MATS 2007 documents Minnesota's continued progress in reducing tobacco use, significant challenges remain and should not be overlooked. In particular, 634,000 Minnesota adults continue to smoke and progress across the population has been uneven. Minnesotans with less education and lower incomes continue to smoke at higher rates, and young adults who do not attend college saw no reductions at all.

"Unlike the rest of the country, Minnesota's smoking rate is decreasing. That's a clear sign that we're doing the right things to reduce tobacco use," said Dr. Marc Manley, vice president and medical director for population health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. "But tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease and is responsible for nearly $2 billion in excess medical costs annually in Minnesota. We have to keep up our efforts if we want to improve health, save lives and control health care costs."

Full report and briefing sheets are available at http://www.mnadulttobaccosurvey.org.

* MATS 2007 does not reflect the effects of Minnesota's statewide smoke-free law that went into effect in October 2007. MATS data collection was completed prior to the law taking effect. The report does describe the effects of local policies, and potentially forecasts the larger effects of a statewide policy.

ClearWay Minnesota(SM) is an independent, non-profit organization that improves the health of Minnesotans by reducing the harm caused by tobacco. ClearWay Minnesota serves Minnesota through its grant-making program, through QUITPLAN(R) Services and through statewide outreach activities. It is funded with 3 percent of the state's 1998 tobacco settlement.

For more information on QUITPLAN Services, call 952-767-1400 or visit http://www.clearwaymn.org.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to http://www.bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health is the lead public health agency in Minnesota. Its mission is to protect, maintain and improve the health of all Minnesotans. The department operates programs in the areas of disease prevention and control, health promotion, family and community health, environmental health, health care policy, emergency planning and preparedness and regulation of health care providers and facilities. The department works with local public health departments across the state to accomplish its mission.


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SOURCE ClearWay Minnesota
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