Finding ways to reduce smoking among LGBTQ youth in Minnesota

Published September 12, 2019

In Minnesota, smoking accounts for more than $3 billion in healthcare costs, according to a recent Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS Minnesota) analysis. The most recent Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey 20181 shows a mixed picture when it comes to tobacco use. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of youth aged 18 to 24 who smoke has dropped by half. But thousands of Minnesotans are still struggling to quit or are smoking at disproportionate rates. 

One group most affected: LGBTQ youth. They’re nearly twice as likely to be addicted to tobacco as other young people. And because most smokers start before the age of 21, intervening earlier is critical.

BCBS Minnesota, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently launched a public education campaign called This Free Life, which promotes a tobacco-free lifestyle among the LGBTQ community using local brand ambassadors and a robust web and social media presence. The campaign encourages these young adults to help and inspire each other to live tobacco-free. 

Early results show daily cigarette use among participants has declined from 19 percent in 2016 to 11 percent in 2018. Seventy percent of participants exposed to the This Free Life campaign reported they intended to quit smoking within six months, compared to only 30 percent who had no campaign exposure. 

Preventing young people from taking up smoking

Experts believe more efforts like This Free Life could discourage young people from taking up smoking or using e-cigarettes. BCBS Minnesota has been instrumental in helping to organize and lead a coalition of 60 organizations that support policies that reduce youth smoking and fund tobacco prevention programs. 

The Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey also reflects the progress BCBS Minnesota, together with the State of Minnesota, has spurred since filing the first lawsuit of its kind against the tobacco industry. In the two decades after the lawsuit, Minnesota saw smoking rates fall faster than the U.S. average, from 22 percent to just under 14 percent.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

This Free Life® is a registered trademark owned by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey is a collaborative effort between ClearWay Minnesota, an organization dedicated to reducing tobacco use and funding tobacco-related research and the Minnesota Department of Health.