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New campaign aims to snuff out youth smoking

Here are the three billboards that will be used in ClearWay Minnesota's campaign. (Contributed graphic)

If you think smoking is on the way out for today's youth, you're blowing smoke.

They're still lighting up and paying the price, financially and health-wise.

So much so that ClearWay Minnesota launched a new advertising campaign this week designed to inform Minnesotans that tobacco is still an urgent problem in the state.

The campaign includes three 30-second TV commercials, a new website with interactive facts and information on tobacco's impact, plus online banner ads, bus sides and billboards.

One of the billboards is located in Alexandria, along Interstate 94 and Highway 29, facing east. The image notes that 77,000 Minnesota kids are using tobacco.

The ads are part of a continued push by ClearWay Minnesota to reduce tobacco's harm through education efforts and policy initiatives.

"We can't become complacent about the problem of tobacco in Minnesota," said David Willoughby, chief executive officer of ClearWay Minnesota. "The tobacco industry spends more than $150 million each year in Minnesota trying to addict our youth and keep people smoking. We need to remember that smoking kills more people than alcohol, murders, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs and suicide combined."

In Minnesota, approximately 625,000 adults still smoke, 77,000 youths use tobacco and the state loses 5,100 lives each year due to tobacco use.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry spends $12.8 billion annually to market its products nationwide, with $157 million of that being spent in Minnesota alone.

The three new television ads will launch at different times beginning on November 12.

The ads are intended to highlight the problem of tobacco and will show shocking images of tobacco's impact, especially on youth. The campaign will direct viewers to to find out more about the issue and solutions to help reduce tobacco's harm.

Here's a look at the new ads:

"Coaster." This television ad, being broadcast right now, depicts youth being taken on the "ride of their lives" by a tobacco addiction roller coaster. The ad highlights the traditional marketing of tobacco to kids, but also illustrates how difficult it can be to break the cycle of addiction.

"School bus." The new television ad, launching January 7, 2013, shows startling footage of a school bus full of junior high school kids smoking. The ad highlights the fact that despite knowing the health risks, 77,000 Minnesota kids are current tobacco users.

"Your Share." The final television ad in the new campaign will launch in February and illustrates the economic cost of tobacco on all Minnesotans. In the spot, an official shows up at a home to collect $554 from each family member to pay for the nearly $3 billion in tobacco-related health care costs in Minnesota.

"We need to continue to educate Minnesotans about the impact of tobacco on our youth, our health and our economy," said Willoughby. "It's time to get serious about addressing this issue. Policies like smoke-free spaces, easily accessible cessation programs and increasing the price of tobacco are effective at helping current smokers quit and preventing youth from ever becoming addicted smokers."

To see the TV ads, go to and click on the You Tube link.