Earlier this month the Minnesota House voted overwhelmingly to pass HF349 and keep indoor air clean. The bipartisan bill strengthens the state’s clean indoor air law, known as the Freedom to Breathe Act, by prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in bars, restaurants and other places smoking is prohibited.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of reducing youth smoking and ending tobacco’s harm for good, thanked the House for passing the bill.

“Freedom to Breathe is one of the most popular laws our state has ever seen, and today the House voted to strengthen that freedom,” chief author Rep. Laurie Halverson said March 14. “This bill ensures that all Minnesotans can breathe clean air in public places. With this vote, we are also making sure our kids are not exposed to behavior that glamorizes and re-normalizes tobacco use. This bill protects the health of all Minnesotans and sends a strong message that all tobacco products are harmful to our kids.”

The House bill expands the definition of smoking to ensure Minnesota’s smoke-free law restricts the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is banned. This bill ensures a strong, uniform standard for clean indoor air. The expanded definition of smoking covers the range of tobacco products on the market now and anticipates new products that may emerge.

Aerosol from e-cigarettes is not safe and threatens the state’s clean indoor air. E-cigarette aerosol contains nicotine, heavy metals, formaldehyde and other carcinogens and harmful chemicals. There have been no long-term studies conducted on e-cigarettes, so the long-term impact on the health of users or those exposed to secondhand aerosol is unknown.

The bill comes at a time when e-cigarette use among Minnesota youth has skyrocketed in Minnesota and across the nation. Today, e-cigarettes threaten the health of Minnesota teens and young adults. 

E-cigarettes have also led to the first increase in youth tobacco rates in a generation. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that about one in five high-schoolers is using e-cigarettes. Public health experts are concerned that indoor, public e-cigarette use – especially when allowed in places where cigarette smoking is prohibited – may re-normalize smoking and further threaten Minnesota’s progress to reduce youth tobacco use. Prohibiting e-cigarette use in smoke-free spaces is extremely popular among Minnesota residents.

A recent poll found that 81 percent of Minnesotans support expanding protections to prohibit e-cigarette use in indoor public places. Despite this support, only 50 percent of Minnesotans are currently protected from e-cigarettes in indoor public places by local policies.

“Minnesotans expect and deserve clean indoor air,” said Molly Moilanen, vice-president at ClearWay Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Thank you to leaders from both sides of the aisle in the Minnesota House for protecting and strengthening our freedom to breathe.”

In addition to thanking chief author Rep. Halverson and bipartisan authors for supporting the bill, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation called on the Minnesota Senate to take up the companion bill (SF462), which has not yet received a hearing. Tobacco use remains Minnesota’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, costing an estimated $7 billion annually and taking the lives of more than 6,300 Minnesotans every year.

Smoking rates in Minnesota had been declining for decades, but the adult cigarette smoking rate has stalled out at 14 percent, and for the first time in a generation youth tobacco use has in-creased. In particular, the surging use of e-cigarettes is threatening the health of Minnesota teens, driving an increase in youth tobacco use that the U.S. Surgeon General has called an epidemic.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco.

The coalition supports policies that reduce youth smoking and nicotine addiction, including increasing tobacco prices, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco, and funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Find out more at smokefreegenmn.org.

– Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain