Clearway acknowledges 20 years of reducing smoking rates in Minnesota

The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout comes up this week.

It’s a chance for anyone who smokes to start thinking about how to quit. In this state, Clearway Minnesota marks its 20th anniversary this week of helping people quit.

Like a puff of smoke, thousands of Minnesotans have blown away their tobacco habit.

“We’ve seen some great strides in reducing the harm that tobacco has caused the people of Minnesota,” said Mike Sheldon of Clearway Minnesota.

Since proceeds from the big tobacco settlement created Clearway Minnesota 20 years ago, the group has help reduce the number of packs of cigarettes sold in this state by 65 percent. The teen smoking rate has dropped to 10 percent and the adult smoking rate is now down to just 14 percent.

Clearway thinks that perhaps its biggest success came in 2007 with the Freedom to Breathe Act, which banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

“And so, certainly I think that was a big people and a big success for our state overall and it’s really something you notice if you go to another country where we don’t have strong smoke free or indoor air laws,” said Sheldon. “And it’s pretty shocking to walk into a bar or a restaurant that allows smoking now.”  

There are still challenges. The biggest is the new epidemic in teen vaping.

“Certainly limiting where flavored tobacco products are sold,” said Sheldon. “Because especially when it comes to e-cigarettes, a lot of them come in menthol, fruit, candy flavors that appeal to youth and that’s what we are seeing them using is these flavored tobacco products.”

Clearway Minnesota also has what it calls the “quit plan.” It’s free and has already helped more than 175,000 Minnesotans quit their tobacco habit. For more information, click here.