Minnesota Celebrates Five Years of Smoke-Free Air
Freedom to Breathe Act has been popular and effective
The Four Corners Partnership wants to remind everyone that October marks the fifth anniversary of Minnesota’s smoke-free law, the Freedom to Breathe Act. The law was a major health milestone for Minnesota. Since October 1, 2007 all bars, restaurants, bowling centers and other workplaces have been smoke-free.
The law was enacted with strong bi-partisan support and went into effect on October 1, 2007. “The Freedom to Breathe Act had a personal impact on everyone, here in Faribault and across the state,” said Lisa Guck of Rice County Public Health and the Rice County Coordinator for the Four Corners Partnership. “It significantly decreased secondhand smoke exposure for all Minnesotans.”
A study of hospitality workers that took place before and after the law took effect showed that their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals found in secondhand smoke had fallen by 85 percent and nicotine exposure was reduced by 83 percent. Science also shows that smoke-free policies help reduce smoking, and since 2007 Minnesota’s adult smoking rate has declined to 16.1 percent.
“Minnesotans overwhelmingly support our smoke-free law,” said Guck. A 2011 poll conducted by Decision Resources LTD found that 79 percent of Minnesotans support the law and that 86 percent of Minnesotans believe smoke-free restaurants and bars are healthier for customers and employees.
The Freedom to Breathe Act was a very positive step, but unfortunately smoking remains a leading cause of death and disease. Smoking costs the lives of more than 5,100 Minnesotans per year and nearly $3 billion each year in excess health care costs.
Minnesota also has to contend with a large tobacco industry presence in the state. The tobacco industry spends $157 million per year in Minnesota on marketing to attract new smokers. Most of this money is spent on advertising and promotions in stores that sell tobacco.
“Studies show that tobacco marketing in retail stores is a major cause of youth smoking,” Guck said. “More than 6,800 Minnesota kids become daily smokers each year. The Four Corners Partnership is working to increase public awareness about the relationship between tobacco advertising and youth smoking.”
In addition to the work being done through the Four Corners Partnership, Rice County Public Health has other health initiatives related to tobacco with its Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. “We are planning a Tobacco Free Housing workshop in the coming months for housing officials and apartment managers” said Natalie Ginter, SHIP Coordinator at Rice County. In addition to tobacco free housing, the SHIP program is working with local employers to enact tobacco free workplace policies through a workplace wellness coalition and also working to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke on college campuses.
The Four Corners Partnership educates the public and elected officials in Dodge, Goodhue, Rice and Steele counties about the harm tobacco causes. The Partnership advocates for proven, evidence-based policies that will reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and prevent youth from starting to smoke. Learn more at: www.4cornerspartnership.org
Lisa Guck, Rice County Four Corners Coordinator (507)332-5915
Deb Purfeerst, Community Health Services Director (507) 332-5914
Gary Weiers, County Administrator, (507) 332-6121