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TV Documentary Examines Three Decades of Tobacco Politics, Policies and People in Minnesota

Program premieres October 20 on TPT's Minnesota Channel

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The politics, policies and people who have been at the center of the last three decades of reducing tobacco use in Minnesota will be featured in a new television documentary that premieres this month. The program, "Tobacco vs. Minnesota: Clearing the Air," will have its first showing Saturday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) Minnesota Channel 17 (for local channel listings, go to

The program, a co-production of ClearWay Minnesota(SM) and TPT's Minnesota Channel, begins its story in the 1970s. The program looks at the 1975 passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, a first-of-its-kind law to protect people from secondhand smoke. But the program also tells the stories of the individuals who made a difference, including Monticello, MN, newspaper publisher Don Smith. A campaign he started in 1974 to encourage readers of his newspaper to quit smoking became a national event three years later. Today, the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smoke-Out remains an important part of efforts to encourage people to quit smoking.

The program also examines the impact of the state's and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's litigation against the tobacco companies in the 1990s. This was a key turning point in the public's understanding of the health hazards of tobacco. The case eventually forced the tobacco industry to reveal its secret documents, including research it had conducted on the health hazards of smoking.

Retired Ramsey County District Court Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick who presided over the trial tells viewers of the significance of the disclosure. "The documents that we did see -- some of them, of course, have been destroyed, some of them we'll never see -- but the ones that we reviewed, we found that there was overwhelming evidence that the tobacco companies were aware of the fact that their products were killing people," Fitzpatrick says.

The 30-minute program explores the progress Minnesota has made -- including the Oct. 1 implementation of the Freedom to Breath Act -- and the challenges that remain. As the program points out, tobacco use remains the single leading cause of preventable deaths in Minnesota.

The program is being broadcast as Minnesota prepares to host the annual meeting of one of the largest and most important gatherings of people working to reduce tobacco use. The National Conference on Tobacco or Health will be in Minneapolis Oct. 24-26.

"Tobacco vs. Minnesota: Clearing the Air" will be rebroadcast later in the year on Minnesota Channel and will be available for download at after the Oct. 20 broadcast on Minnesota Channel.

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, QUITPLAN(R) Services and 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

SOURCE ClearWay Minnesota
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