Heartfelt with Dr Melissa Walton-ShirleyView all posts »
Three decades worth of proof: Minnesota cities prove critics of smoking-cessation efforts wrong, wrong, WRONG!Nov 15, 2010 08:04 EST
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St Paul have a lot to brag about today. Dr Kriston Filion presented the Minnesota Heart Survey, which chronicled three decades' worth of progress on smoking-cessation efforts there. Since 1980, the number of current smokers fell by a staggering 50%. Now, only 15% of men in Minneapolis/St Paul smoke and only 12% of women. (Coming from a state where an embarrassing one in four pregnant women smoke, this ole Kentucky gal was envious but hopeful. Our smoking ban went into effect in Glasgow, KY in June of this year, so we can now look forward to decades' worth of the same benefits.)
What the rest of the country must do is to examine the difference between what's working in Minnesota and what isn't in many parts of the country. It's really a tale of the "haves" and the "have-nots." What the Twin Cities "have" is a higher tax rate on tobacco products, a statewide smoking ban, a huge settlement that was utilized for education, and a large insurance conglomerate, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which got behind the cessation movement. Those who are the "have-nots" are the states with fewer organized efforts toward implementing bans and with lower taxation that allows smoking rates to go unchecked. Filion's study observed that even in current smokers, the number of cigarettes smoked daily declined. Although one must be careful to point out that the risk of cardiac death and cancer still remain exceptionally high for those "lighter smokers," the rate of secondhand exposure for their family members and acquaintances will still have a significant impact on heart attack, cancer death rates, and ER visits for asthma treatment.
There are still problems in Minneapolis/St Paul, though. The age at which teenagers begin to smoke stayed the same for men but dropped to one year younger for women. This fact proves that subtle marketing ploys on behalf of the tobacco industry are still working. The addiction science perfected by them is still more effective than any other efforts ever made to permanently reconfigure the receptors in the human brain with an intense almost uncontrollable yearning for nicotine. Most important, one must applaud the cities' efforts at not only implementing antismoking measures but as important, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the programs there. Now that they have targeted this disturbing trend in teen smoking, they can reorganize efforts and ramp up programs to combat that growing problem as well.
I'd like to submit a wish list for the Twin Cities. Since opponents of smoking-cessation efforts always claim (along with the endless whining about smokers' rights being trampled) there is no monetary benefit from taxation, education, and legislation, cities with such astounding success in smoking prevalence need to report on the economic impact on healthcare expenditures for tobacco-related illnesses. Naysayers who are never impressed with lower death rates or lower pediatric morbidities have less impact when we translate smoking-cessation efforts into dollars saved.
Congratulations, Minneapolis/St Paul! In this era of paranoia about big government, you've proven that more government, not less, on the smoking issue works to lower smoking prevalence even better than any of us could ever have imagined. I'm glad you could be one of the first to say, "I told you so" (and it's okay to stick your tongue out too!).
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