Minnesota Commercial Tobacco Control

Over the last thirty-five years. the state of Minnesota has played a special role in U.S. commercial tobacco control. Back in 1975, Minnesota was the first state to enact a Clean Indoor Air Act. Although the Act did not eliminate smoking in public setting, but only required the creation of “Smoking Permitted” and “No Smoking Areas,” it was still a groundbreaking law at the time. Ten years later, the Minnesota Department of Health launched the country’s first state-funded tobacco control program with a portion of the proceeds of the cigarette tax. In 1986, the Surgeon General shook the public health world with the release of The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, the first Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke. Minnesota took notice.

Minnesota Litigation

Eight years later, the state of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota filed a lawsuit in State District Court in Ramsey County that would revolutionize tobacco control. The state accused cigarette manufacturers and related trade associations of violating antitrust and consumer protection statutes by failing to disclose data about the dangers and addictive qualities of cigarettes. The concept of such a lawsuit at the time was unfathomable. The result four years later was an unprecedented settlement agreement, which former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called “one of the most significant health achievements of the second half of the 20th century.”

Later that same year, the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement was signed, an accord between the five largest U.S. tobacco companies and the state attorneys general of forty-six states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia concerning the advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products. The world of tobacco control was changing: for the first time in history, the tobacco industry was being held accountable for the epidemic of tobacco use that had cost countless lives over the years.

Minnesota Legislation

In 2000, the tiny town of Moose Lake became the first Minnesota city to pass a smoke-free restaurant ordinance. That also was the year the Public Health Law Center (the former Tobacco Law Project/Center), was established at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over the next six years, the state passed a wave of smoke-free legislation. As public health advocates and professionals worked tirelessly in smoke-free campaigns across Minnesota, from Moorhead, Bemidji and Duluth to Olmsted County and the Twin Cities, the attorneys at the Public Health Law Center worked along with them, providing communities with legal technical assistance and support around the clock, writing almost every one of Minnesota’s local smoke-free ordinances, and also drafting tobacco taxation and product regulation policies.

In May 2007, our attorneys wrote Minnesota’s statewide smoke-free law, the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007, a comprehensive smoke-free law that covers indoor public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Our staff worked in tandem with public health advocates and policymakers, helping to guide the legislation through 19 legislative hearings and 109 proposed amendments.


Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).

Two People Signing a Lease

Model Smoke-free Condo Policy (2020)

Minnesota-specific model policy for condo associations that prohibits smoking of all commercial tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, everywhere on association property -- both inside and outside.

Condo Building

Model Smoke-free Lease Addendum (2020)

Minnesota-specific model lease addendum that prohibits smoking of all commercial tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, everywhere on property -- both inside and outside.

Number 21 with Smoke

Tobacco 21 and Other Statutory Changes (2020)

Overview of Minnesota's 2020 Tobacco 21 law and other updates and reforms to the state's retailer licensing and youth access laws.

Tobacco Town Minnesota Dashboard

Tobacco Town Minnesota (2018)

This page features resource materials related to Tobacco Town Minnesota, a computational modeling project that explored the impact of menthol restrictions and retailer density reductions in six different Minnesota communities.