Minn. receives two failing grades in 'State of Tobacco Control' report

An unidentified man smokes a cigarette in the street outside his office on January 31, 2007 in Paris, France
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Minnesota received two failing grades in the American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control," an annual report that tracks policies related to tobacco and tobacco prevention at the state and federal level.

States are given grades in four categories: funding for tobacco prevention programs, public smoking restrictions, taxes on tobacco products and whether insurance is required to cover cessation treatments.

Last year, Minnesota received a failing grade on funding and a D on cessation coverage, while it scored an A for having a statewide smoking ban law and a C for its tax on cigarettes. This year, Minnesota's cessation coverage grade dropped to an F.

Minnesota is among 32 states that received an F in that category.

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Pat McKone, director for tobacco control programs and policy at the American Lung Association in Minnesota, said on The Daily Circuit that the grade shows the state could do more to make sure health plans fully cover smoking cessation programs.

"We do know that when a person makes a quit attempt and fails or doesn't succeed, they're ready again to make another quit attempt pretty shortly after that, and many health plans don't provide for second and third opportunities," McKone said.

McKone admits that one unique smoking cessation program in Minnesota wasn't included in the report card. Quit Plan offers free services to Minnesotans and is funded by part of a settlement the state reached with the tobacco companies in 1998.

Minnesota also received an F in funding for tobacco prevention and control programs.

The annual report card compared the amount of funding the state and federal governments are spending on such programs in Minnesota to the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The current level is $21 million, and the CDC says it should be $58 million.

Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center, said that money spent on tobacco prevention and control is well worth it.

"We spend billions of dollars on things that are way less cost effective than what we do when we treat a smoker," he said. "And what we know is that the more intervention we have, the more intensive the intervention that it is, the more contact time the smoker has with a tobacco treatment specialist, the better the outcome."