Where are we now; 20 years after Big Tobacco settlement - KXLT - Fox 47 Rochester MN News, Weather, Sports #rochmn

Where are we now; 20 years after Big Tobacco settlement

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -

It was one of the biggest public health fights in history; legal action against the tobacco industry.

Tuesday, May 8th, marked 20 years that the state of Minnesota and tobacco companies reached a settlement, changing the way we look at tobacco products.

By the time this particular case made it to trial in January, 1998, around 40 other states were also suing Big Tobacco.

"The tobacco settlement came about because it wasn't so much about people smoking, it was about the tobacco companies really targeting teens in a lot of their marketing," said Margene Gunderson, Associate Director of Olmsted County Public Health. "The state of Minnesota and Blue Cross Blue Shield, wanted to challenge that and ended up winning."

Upon settling, the tobacco companies paid out more than $6 billion to Minnesota.

Since then, the state and Blue Cross Blue Shield used the settlement money to fund public health programs and anti-smoking campaigns with an emphasis on teens and young adults.

But tobacco companies are adapting with the changing of times.

"For youth, we've seen a dramatic rise in the use of e-cigarettes." said Dr. Taylor Hays, Director of Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. "At the same time, we've seen a fall in the use of tobacco cigarettes so it's a good news, bad news situation. What we don't know is whether of not e-cigarettes use among youth will end up being a gateway for tobacco use. And there's evidence to suggest that it may be." 

In years since the settlement a variety of smoke free laws have been incorporated, many of which push smoking outside of public buildings and workplaces. 

Dr. Hays says Olmsted County was one of the earlier counties in the state to pass those same smoke free indoor air laws.

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