Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of Minnesota's leading health organizations, voiced their cautious optimism about the results of the Minnesota Student Survey today. The Survey shows that fewer kids are smoking, but also that they are using flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes at alarming rates.
"A record low number of Minnesota teens smoking is cause for celebration," said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs for ClearWay Minnesota and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. "These findings reinforce that our comprehensive approach to tobacco prevention - including smoke-free spaces and high tobacco prices - is working.
"But the tobacco industry still spends millions of dollars in our state each year, marketing new and kid-friendly products," Moilanen said. "And nearly all adult smokers started in their teens. Too many young people are still using tobacco, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction and disease."
The 2016 Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) is compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health's Center for Health Statistics. It showed that in 2016, 11th graders were smoking at a record low rate of 8.4 percent, down from 12.2 percent three years ago.
The Survey also showed that many students are using other tobacco products, including cigars, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Many of these products come in kid-friendly candy, fruit and menthol flavors. In fact, 35 percent of all tobacco users said that they use menthol products, and 40 percent said they use other flavors.
Research shows that flavored products are attractive to youth. These products contain nicotine, which can harm adolescent brain development. They can mask the harshness of the tobacco, making it easier for kids to start using them. And once teens start using one tobacco product, they are more likely to experiment with others.
"Despite this progress, there is more to be done. We look forward to working with lawmakers to create a smoke-free future in Minnesota," said Moilanen. "The tobacco industry hasn't given up on our young people, and neither will we."
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation