Blue Cross Recognizes 15-Year Anniversary of Landmark Settlement with the Tobacco Industry

May 08, 2013

Settlement continues to have a positive impact, as proceeds are reinvested  to improve the health of all Minnesotans

EAGAN, MINN. (May 8, 2013) – Fifteen years ago, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) and the State of Minnesota agreed to settle a historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Combined with subsequent actions, such as the passage of Minnesota’s Freedom to Breath law in 2007, this victory over Big Tobacco has helped Minnesota decrease its smoking rate, and keep it well below the national average.

The lawsuit required important changes to the way the tobacco industry markets its products in Minnesota–restrictions that were quickly adopted in 46 other states including:

  • not marketing cigarettes to children;
  • not advertising cigarettes on billboards, buses or transit areas;
  • not distributing or selling tobacco-related merchandise; and
  • not receiving placement fees for cigarette products in movies.

In addition to these immediate changes, the settlement continues to have a positive impact on public health. Through its Center for Prevention, Blue Cross annually reinvests a portion of its settlement proceeds to tackle the leading root causes of preventable death and disease, including tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating. By collaborating with other organizations across the state, the Center is working to make healthy choices are easier and more accessible–ultimately improving the health of all Minnesotans.

“At the time of the settlement, some called our decision to sue the tobacco industry the greatest act of corporate courage they had ever seen. Courageous or not, we believed it was the right thing to do and it has since paved the way for us to make a significant investment in improving the health of all Minnesotans,” said Janelle Waldock, director of the Center for Prevention.

Despite great progress, tobacco use continues to be a major health concern in Minnesota. Sixteen percent of Minnesotans still smoke, and 77,000 kids will use tobacco this year. Tobacco-related illnesses kill 5,100 people each year; more than alcohol, homicides, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs and suicide combined.

Blue Cross, along with other leading health and nonprofit organizations are encouraging our legislature to raise the tobacco tax–a proven way to save kids from a lifetime of addiction and help adults quit smoking. A recent poll from the Raise it for Health coalition shows that a majority (66 percent) of Minnesotans support raising the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack.

“Our state continues to face significant public health challenges and the tobacco industry remains extremely powerful,” said Waldock. “It will take people and organizations from all sectors to make our state a place where healthy choices truly are easy choices. We remain dedicated and proud to play a role in achieving that.”

About the Center for Prevention
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross’ long-term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable death and disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross’ historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, we collaborate with organizations statewide to help build vibrant communities where healthy choices are easier and more accessible. Visit preventionminnesota.com ExternalLink for more information.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

For more information:
Stacy Housman
Communications | Center for Prevention
651-662-1415
stacy_m_housman@bluecrossmn.com