Minn.’s State Health Groups Kick Off Ad Campaign on Higher Cigarette Prices

April 19, 2006

Several of Minnesota’s leading health advocacy organizations launched a statewide advertising campaign to emphasize the health benefits of the 75 cent tobacco price increase. The radio and newspaper ads highlight the impact that higher tobacco prices have on preventing kids from smoking and helping more people quit smoking.

The advertisements are sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association of Minnesota, American Heart Association, Minnesota Medical Association, AARP, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Minnesota Smoke Free Coalition.

“It’s good health policy to have higher cigarette prices. It prevents kids from starting to smoke and it encourages adults to quit,” said Marc Manley, M.D., vice president and medical director of population health at Blue Cross.

Calls to Blue Cross’ cessation help line increased dramatically after the 75 cent price increase went into effect on August 1. Enrollment in the program doubled from July to August and enrollment in the following months remained noticeably higher than normal. Interest in cessation services provided by other health plans and organizations has also increased since the policy went into effect.

Smoking kills more than 5,600 Minnesotans every year and costs the state nearly $2 billion annually in excess medical charges, according to an economic impact study conducted by Blue Cross last year. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that a rollback of the 75 cent increase will mean that 43,000 kids who are alive today will become smokers and 13,700 of them will die from smoking. The state also will incur $861 million in new long-term health care expenditures from new adult and youth smoking increases.

The advertising campaign comes at a time when the tobacco fee passed by the Minnesota Legislature last year is in jeopardy. Tobacco companies have filed suit to block the state from implementing the 75 cent fee on tobacco, claiming that the fee violates the terms of a 1998 agreement with the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota Supreme Court is considering the case.

“The Legislature approved the additional fee on tobacco prices last year as part of a budget solution,” said Manley. “But it should keep the higher prices, regardless of what the court decides, as a matter of good health policy.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A not-for-profit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.6 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to http://www.bluecrossmn.com/ to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Source: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

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