Minn. smoking law is 5 years oldby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The law that made Minnesota's bars, restaurants and workplaces smoke-free marks its fifth anniversary Monday.
Supporters say the Freedom to Breathe Act has significantly decreased secondhand smoke exposure for residents and reduced deaths associated with tobacco use and exposure.
Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, Dr. Edward Ehlinger, points to a study in Olmsted County last year that showed a nearly 50 percent decline in sudden cardiac deaths in the year-and-a-half after the workplace smoking ban took effect.
Ehlinger said Minnesota will likely see additional health benefits in the years ahead.
"Over the course of a longer-term period you will see a reduction in overall cardiovascular disease and lung cancer from the reduction in this carcinogen," Ehlinger said. "But you won't be able to see those results for several years down the road."
Ehlinger said the workplace smoking ban was controversial when it was passed. But he said the law now has the support of a majority of state residents.
"Once we changed the norm that secondhand smoke is unacceptable, it's not going to come back," he said. "That's a big change. And the Freedom to Breathe Act helped do that."
Ehlinger said there's still more work to be done to reduce smoking rates in Minnesota which have leveled off recently after years of steady declines.