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Minnesota smokers now just 16.1 percent of population

Smoking: Minnesotans are doing less of it than ever.

Smoking: Minnesotans are doing less of it than ever.

The percentage of adults in Minnesota who smoke cigarettes has dropped to its lowest level in 11 years, and heavy smokers are consuming fewer and fewer cigarettes.

But a report out today suggests that folks are finding new ways to feed their habit: More of them are turning to chew.

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The findings are from the latest Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey. It was compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health and ClearWay Minnesota, an advocacy group funded by the 1998 tobacco settlement.

The survey found that the percentage of adult Minnesotans who smoke dropped to 16.1 percent in 2010 compared to 22.1 percent in 1999, but the downward trend has slowed in the past few years; 17 percent of adults reported smoking in 2007. The data suggest that 625,000 Minnesotans continue to light up.

But while more and more people are kicking their nicotine habit, some things haven't changed, the report says. Adult smokers in Minnesota still tend to be younger males from lower income brackets who have completed fewer years of education. Conversely, smoking rates decline as education increases: If you have a college degree you are far less likely to smoke than someone with only a high school diploma.

The MATS data also indicated "a dramatic increase in the use of smokeless tobacco products," up from 4.4 percent of adult smokers in 2007 to 9.6 percent in 2010, that the reports authors attributed to stepped-up advertising efforts on the part of tobacco companies.

Fewer Minnesotans are smoking than the national average, too.

Fewer Minnesotans are smoking than the national average, too.

Even so, it looks like the public health campaigns, as well as the 2007 Freedom To Breathe Act, are having the desired effect: Fewer smokers. So it makes you wonder why Rep. Tom Hackbarth is leading a group of state lawmakers trying to make it legal again to smoke in bars. It looks like he has an increasingly shrinking constituency.

Dowload the MATS 2010 Fact Sheet here, and the full technical report here.