Money aimed at curbing smoking
St. Louis County is getting its first share of the state tobacco settlement.
St. Louis County board members voted unanimously Tuesday to accept $119,294 in grants for anti-smoking efforts.
The money will be used to educate residents about the hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke, said Jim Skoog, a county health educator in charge of doling out anti-smoking grant money.
The grant money also targets children.
State officials want a 30 percent reduction in youth smoking by 2005, Skoog said. ``That's our target, and we need to be working toward that.''
St. Louis County partnered with Lake, Cook and Carlton counties to apply for grants and curb youth smoking in the region.
Carlton County got $33,159, Cook County got $16,776 and Lake County got $19,294 in grant money for the year.
``We need to start educating people,'' said Mike Duffy, director of the Community Health Board for St. Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook counties. ``There needs to be a sound, basic education grounded in science.''
The counties hired the American Lung Association to educate the public about the hazards of smoking and prevent young people from starting.
``Much of the research indicates that people don't understand the health risks of second-hand smoke,'' said Pat McKone, senior director of the American Lung Association of Minnesota.
Education is the first step in getting communities to draft ordinances banning smoking in public places, McKone said.
Lung association officials will teach residents about tobacco company marketing tactics and help schools create curriculum that discourages smoking, she said.
They also plan to help residents organize and draft ordinances that limit smoking in bars and restaurants in their communities.
Community leaders in Hibbing and Virginia have already asked lung association officials to help draft smoking ordinances in their cities, McKone said.
Duluth's ordinance banning smoking in restaurants and bars kicks in Jan. 1.
The county's grant money comes from an endowment fund created with the state's $6.1 billion tobacco settlement.
The counties will get the same amount of grant money next year, Skoog said. The state Legislature will set the funding levels in following years.
Even with the new money, anti-smoking leaders face enormous challenges.
Tobacco companies spend $90 million a year marketing their products in Minnesota, according to a study by the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco.
Smoking opponents spend about $8 million a year trying to curb smoking in the state, according to the study.
Duffy and other officials know the challenges they face, but their smoke-free vision for the future remains the same.
``We want to make sure that in the future, smoking is not the problem that it is today,'' Duffy said.