NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health issue as it continues to be the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease.
Minnesota got mixed grades in the American Lung Association’s 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report card.
The nationwide report tracks federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use. Grading the state in five areas:
Minnesota received an “F” in funding for tobacco prevention programs and another “F” in ending the sale of flavored tobacco products.
“The reason for that grade is because currently there isn’t a policy in place here in Minnesota that restricts the sale of products statewide,” American Lung Association Public Policies and Advocacy Specialist Kelly McIntee said.
The report finds that the smoking rate for high school students is at 28%; that’s higher than the 14.6% for adults.
“We know that in the tobacco industry there are over 15,500 e-cigarettes and counting that are being targeted toward our youth,” said Mcintee.
“We know that the flavors really draw kids in, but it’s the high levels of nicotine in products that really hook them,” said Laura Smith, a spokesperson for Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation.
According to the report, in Minnesota, the economic cost due to smoking is about $2.5 million with 5,910 deaths per year.
That‘s why the American Lung Association is calling on state lawmakers to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products and raise the tax on all tobacco products.
“Because it will raise revenue while reducing health care costs and improve health,” said Mcintee.
Gov. Tim Walz unveiled a budget proposal on Tuesday that calls for raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 and creating a new tax on the retail sale of vape products.