With all the deserved attention that Tobacco 21 has gotten, there are other anti-tobacco bills being considered at the Legislature that are worth our support. Bill HF 350, which would provide funding for tobacco cessation services across the state, is also up for consideration. Quitting tobacco products is one of the hardest things a person can do. While Tobacco 21 is a great step to help prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products, we can’t leave people who are already addicted to nicotine behind.
Currently, Minnesotans can access free tobacco cessation services, including counseling, text and email support, and nicotine replacement therapies, through QUITPLAN Services. Unfortunately, QUITPLAN Services will end in early 2020. If QUITPLAN Services expires without new cessation funding in place, Minnesota will be the only state in the country without such a program. This is not a distinction that Minnesota wants or needs.
Funding cessation services isn’t just the right thing to do for Minnesotan’s health — helping people quit tobacco is also cost-effective. Research shows the cost of cessation programs can be fully recovered within three years. To put this in perspective, Minnesota spends $3 billion every year on health care costs that are directly related to smoking-related diseases and illnesses. Each year, over 6,000 Minnesotans die from tobacco use. Allocating money to cessation services will save Minnesota a significant amount of money in both the long and short-term. It will literally save lives and improve the health of all Minnesotans. HF 350 is a bill that we can all support.
Lastly, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation held their day the Capitol last week, where community partners and local advocates were able to meet with their legislators to talk about HF 350 and the related other bills. These bills have the potential to do so much for the health of our state.
Kate Feuling Porter is a community health promotion student in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.