Lawmakers seek funding to continue fight against tobacco

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are behind a bill presented to the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee this week that would solidify the future of Minnesota’s successful anti-smoking efforts. QUITPLAN Services is a nonprofit organization that provides free tobacco cessation services to all Minnesotans. It was funded through a portion of the Minnesota tobacco settlement revenue that tobacco companies were ordered to send the state in 1998.

QUITPLAN was created with a strict timeline and funding is scheduled to cease in March 2020, which would make Minnesota the only state in the nation to not offer a free cessation service. The bill heard this week would permanently dedicate a portion of future tobacco settlement revenue to smoking-cessation efforts, ensuring at least some of that revenue is used for the intended purpose of preventing tobacco addiction among Minnesotans.

Smoking not only impacts personal health but it also has a large impact on state services and revenues. Statistics show smokers’ health care costs are 34% higher than nonsmokers, and that leads to an estimated $7 billion annual cost to the state through lost productivity and excess health care costs, according to advocates of this bill.

These statistics are one reason why DFLers fought so hard against more than $35 million in tax breaks for tobacco companies that were included in last year’s tax bill. The Governor has proposed repealing those tax cuts in this year’s budget. Pursuing that along with this new proposal would be the strongest, most effective step toward reducing tobacco use and tobacco-related costs in Minnesota.  (SF 3006)