Smokers react to Minnesota's poor smoking rates

11:58 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - As Justin Mauricio and Aaron Ebbenga threw darts in a St. Paul bar on Tuesday night, they also spent part of their time outside of it, forced to the sidewalk to smoke.

"Some people don't like it," said Mauricio, "And I have no problem coming outside to smoke a cigarette."

Apparently thousands of other Minnesotans agree.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows 19 percent of adults in the state are smokers, putting Minnesota's smoking rates as No. 11 best in the nation. In 2009, the state ranked No. 7.

Earlier this month, Minnesota got a failing grade from the American Lung Association. Health experts say the state still has a big problem.

"It's easy to think the tobacco issue is taken care of," said Chris Tholkes of the Minnesota Department of Health. "That's not true for all populations."

That includes racial minorities and young people. Both of which tobacco companies are constantly targeting, Tholkes said.

The CDC study also shows rural areas have higher smoking rates, as does the northern third of the state.

Health experts say youth education programs work and so has the indoor smoking ban, but they say a new tax plan that would add 94 cents to every pack of cigarettes could be the best deterrent of all.

"Increasing the price has a huge impact on smoking rates," said Tholkes. "It stops young people from starting and it helps adults quit."

But maybe not people like Mauricio and Ebbenga, who say even though they know it's unhealthy, they'll continue nonetheless.

"It is bad for you so you shouldn't do it," Ebbenga said, "(But) I do enjoy smoking."

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