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Minnesota's the best state in the country to quit smoking

The number of high school smokers was almost cut in half from 2011 to 2014.

The number of high school smokers was almost cut in half from 2011 to 2014.

Everyone's quitting cigarettes these days. At least that's what they say as they sidle up outside the bar to bum a smoke. They only ever do this on Fridays, they explain. Or after a couple drinks. Or if the last 15 minutes were stressful. 

Minnesota's got a natural advantage for anyone trying to get off cancer sticks, as no-smoking-indoors policies combine with no-feeling-your-hands-outdoors weather to turn some into seasonal users. Turns out we've also got some of the best policies in place, should people decide they want to pursue other methods of dying. 

A report from the American Lung Association gives Minnesota an 'A' grade for its smoking cessation access. We're the only state in the country to get that grade since the ALA started giving it out in 2008. The ALA's finding credits a new state law removing the co-pay for Medicare users looking to obtain products to help them quit.  

Not only is Minnesota alone with those good marks, most states got an 'F.'  

Of course, one doesn't have to quit if one never starts, and the ALA says Minnesota's trending in a positive direction there as well. The report says Minnesota's massive tax increase on cigarettes in 2013, jumping from one of the lowest per-pack tax levels in the country to among the highest, has prevented an estimated 20,000 new smokers from starting. That tax continues to edge up with inflation. On January 1, it hit $3 per pack.

In 2011, the rate of smoking among high school students was 18 percent. In 2014, that fell to 10.6 percent. (Only really hardcore kids are picking up the habit in middle school, where the rate is 1.6 percent.)  Adults aren't dropping the practice nearly as fast. Some 16.3 percent of Minnesota's adults smoked in 2014, compared to 19.1 percent three years earlier. 

Our "tobacco tax" category gets a 'B' grade because, high as they are, the lung folks think they should be higher still. Our only truly bad rating is one that will probably be leveled at most states: Minnesota gets an 'F' for smoking prevention, where our $23 million in annual prevention spending is less than half the $53 million the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends.