Researchers concerned by 'stall' in Minnesota's declining smoking rate

The latest research shows Minnesota still has a smoking problem.

The number of adults who light up is roughly 574,000, which is much lower than in decades past, but researchers are now worried that the trend is slowing down.

“The good news is from 1999 when we started doing this survey, we’ve seen about a 37-38 percent drop in the rate of smoking in Minnesota, and so that’s good news overall. What we’re concerned about is that progress has started to stall a little bit. We have not seen a big decrease in the number of smokers from our previous survey,” said Mike Sheldon with Clearway Minnesota.  

In fact, in some categories, it’s increased. Just like the number of teens that have taken to vaping, the number of young adults 18-24 who are using e-cigarettes has jumped to nearly 22 percent. That’s almost double from four years ago. 

However, many have never smoked a regular cigarette.

“It may be that they started on these even before they turned 18. The key here is that, especially among youth, we want to be sure that they are not using e-cigarettes, that they aren’t smoking because nicotine is harmful to the adolescent brain; it’s not something we’re encouraging people to use,” Sheldon said.  

One of the strategies to prevent teens and young adults from starting e-cigarettes is to raise the purchase age to 21.

“Well, certainly we’ve seen cities and communities already raise that age to 21 – 434 [cities]- and the idea of having it statewide would both prevent youth from becoming addicted and making sure that future generations really don’t have that same easy access to tobacco products and these addictive products, as well,” he said.

Sheldon said the new research shows the state has more work to do not just in new policies, but in continuing to provide people with the free services to quick smoking.