Freedom to Breathe Act — One Coalition's Work to Clear the Air for the People of Minnesota
In 2007, 56.7 percent of adults in Minnesota reported exposure to secondhand smoke during the past week.1 A statewide coalition of tobacco control stakeholders was formed to address the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Led by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Blue Cross Blue Shield, and ClearWay Minnesota, an independent, nonprofit organization created in 1998 to enhance life in Minnesota by using research, action, and collaboration to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, the coalition worked to pass the Freedom to Breathe Act.
Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe Act, which amended the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, prohibits smoking in all indoor public places and indoor places of employment, protecting employees and the general public from the hazards of secondhand smoke. MDH and ClearWay Minnesota gathered information about the attitudes of Minnesotans towards smoke-free laws and conducted additional research on smoke-free policies to inform the debate.
MDH and ClearWay Minnesota utilize multiple strategies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure, including public education and media, tribal grants, and policy grants. Many of these local and tribal grantees have succeeded in implementing smoke-free policies. For instance, White Earth Nation, a tribal grantee funded by MDH, successfully implemented smoke-free Powwow policies at their annual Powwow and supported enforcement of smoke-free policies at all schools in their jurisdiction.
One of ClearWay Minnesota’s local policy grantees, CentraCare Health Foundation, assisted in the passage of a smoke-free policy at the St. Cloud Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. CentraCare staff facilitated outreach and education opportunities with staff and tenants at HRA facilities, gave presentations to the HRA board, and organized written comments from tenants in support of the smoke-free policy. In March 2013, the HRA unanimously voted to adopt a smoke-free policy that covered 55 properties and almost 700 units.
The efforts of the Minnesota Department of Health, ClearWay Minnesota, and their grantees have resulted in more smoke-free spaces in Minnesota. During 2009-2013, ClearWay Minnesota grantees reported that their communities had implemented 110 smoke-free housing policies, 5 smoke-free campus policies, and one smoke-free workplace policy. During this same time period, MDH grantees reported that 103 smoke-free housing policies, 13 tobacco-free campus policies, and 40 comprehensive tobacco-free worksite policies were implemented in their communities. In addition, Minnesota has seen a significant decline in reported exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2007, 56.7% of adults reported exposure to secondhand smoke within the past seven days; in 2010, only 45.6% of adults reported exposure within the past seven days.2
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