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Bloomington, MN (KROC AM News) - An anti-tobacco organization that was founded in Minnesota more than 20 years ago is in the process of shutting down - permanently.

And the organization is reporting “mission accomplished.”

ClearWay Minnesota will cease operations at the end of 2021. The organization was founded in 1998 with the goal of “using proven science and innovative programs to reduce the harms caused by cigarette smoking and other commercial tobacco use.”

 

 

ClearWay received just over $200-million from Minnesota’s historic settlement with the tobacco industry and began its long run as a visible and vocal advocate of programs and laws aimed at reducing tobacco use. It was set up as an organization that would cease operations after 25 years.

The organization says its initiatives helped Minnesota realize the lowest smoking rates in state history, equaling lives saved, a better quality of life, and lower health care costs for individuals and families. One study conducted by HealthPartners Institute found activities by ClearWay Minnesota and partners prevented over 4,500 cancers and tens of thousands of hospitalizations for smoking-related diseases. $5.1 billion dollars was also saved in health costs and work productivity. Together, ClearWay Minnesota and partners prevented over 4,000 smoking-attributable deaths. These numbers will continue increasing as nonsmokers live longer, and have healthier lives in the future.

Other highlights include:

  • ClearWay Minnesota’s flagship program was QUITPLAN® Services, which gave quitting help to 200,000 Minnesotans.
  • ClearWay Minnesota led advocacy coalitions to pass major policies like the lifesaving Freedom to Breathe Act and Tobacco 21

ClearWay Minnesota was also known for its innovative work to improve equity within Minnesota communities, partnering with American Indian tribes to restore traditional tobacco ways, working with African American advocates to weaken the grip of menthol, and giving communities of color and LGBTQ leaders tools to address commercial tobacco among their people.

“Minnesotans should be proud of this historic investment,” said David J. Willoughby, ClearWay Minnesota’s CEO of 21 years. “ClearWay Minnesota was a great experiment, conceived by some very brave individuals who stood up to the tobacco industry in the 1990s as an organization that would have maximum impact on the commercial tobacco problem over a relatively short period of time. Thank you to the visionaries who created us and the partners who collaborated with us. With Minnesotans continued commitment, we know we are leaving Minnesota’s health in good hands.”

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