Minnesota's adult smoking rate is much higher than public health officials previously thought. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 19 percent of Minnesota adults smoke.
Prior CDC surveys had put the state's adult smoking rate at closer to 15 to 16 percent.
"I have to admit I was surprised to see that," said Minnesota Health Department Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. "To see a 19 percent tobacco use rate in our state I think is, it actually is shameful ... We should be doing a much better job than that."
The new CDC smoking numbers are considered more accurate because for the first time the agency's survey included people who have cell phones.
"The fact that we're dropping in our ranking says that we're not concentrating as much on some of the prevention efforts as we should," Ehlinger said. "I think it spills over into other public health issues. That means that we're not focusing on prevention overall as we should."
Ehlinger says the states that have lower adult smoking rates than Minnesota tend to have higher tobacco taxes, tougher restrictions on tobacco marketing and more anti-tobacco education programs.
Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a 94 cents-per-pack tax increase to deter smoking. Minnesota's cigarette excise tax ranks 28th among states.
Minnesota's 19 percent adult smoking rate gives the state the 11th best ranking among all states. Previously Minnesota was ranked 7th.
Minnesota had the best rate compared to other states in the Upper Midwest. Iowa ranks 21st with a rate of 20.4 percent; Wisconsin ranks 23rd with a rate of 20.9 percent, North Dakota ranks 30th at 21.9 percent; and South Dakota ranks 37th at 23 percent.
According to the CDC report, Utah has the lowest rate of adult smoking, at 11.8 percent. Kentucky has the highest at 29 percent.