Shifting Tides: Minnesota Tobacco Politics
Minnesota was a pioneer in the tobacco control movement in the United States. Minnesota enjoyed early success with the passage of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act in 1975 which created nonsmoking sections in public places, including workplaces and restaurants throughout the state. While modest by 2003 standards, this act represented a major step forward at the time. It was enacted without any overt opposition from the tobacco industry, something that would never happen again.
Between 1975 and 2003, there have been victories in tobacco control, particularly when political figures have shown leadership. Individuals and organizations outside government have often rallied to support this leadership that is necessary to sustain an effective tobacco control program in the long run in the face of strong opposition from the tobacco industry and its allies. These organizations, however, have not developed an independent leadership and agenda-setting capability. As a result, when the politicians in power adopt positions hostile to tobacco control and supportive of the tobacco industry, the “advocates” for tobacco control tend to retreat in the face of political attack. The series of victories and defeats are often associated with a sense of complacency that success was accomplished, rather than a vigilant preparation for the next attack.