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Editorial: Help kids avoid using tobacco

Cheers to Minnesota's Freedom to Breathe Act, which celebrated its fifth birthday on Oct. 1.

The law has been extremely successful in reducing Minnesotan's exposure to secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants across the state.

However, according to the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey, 16 percent of Minnesotans still smoke. Too many start as children, and once they start, it's a very difficult addiction to beat.

Now there are concerns that movies geared toward children and teens have too many images of people smoking.

A new government survey shows movies with depictions of smoking have increased in 2011. That's reversing a five-year decline, according to a report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Journal.

The finding comes just a few months after the U.S. Surgeon General's office warned that seeing smoking in movies causes young people to start smoking.

For many years, tobacco companies paid studios to have their products appear in movies, according to the CDC.

Even though this practice is no longer allowed, movies for youth, and even some movies for children, may include images of characters using tobacco. These images are powerful because they can make smoking seem like a normal, acceptable, or even attractive activity.

Young people may also look up to movie stars, both on and off screen, and may want to imitate behaviors they see.

Over time, the number of images of tobacco use in movies has gone down. But movies still contain thousands of images of tobacco use that are proven to encourage young people to start smoking.

In 2010, nearly a third of top-grossing youth-rated movies - those with G, PG, or PG-13 ratings - contained images of tobacco use.

Clearly, Hollywood needs to adopt a uniform set of policies to cut down on smoking scenes in movies.

For those who want to quit tobacco, Quitplan Services, a free quit-smoking counseling service available to all Minnesotans, is available to help.

Support offered by Quitplan Services includes:

n Free phone coaching to help quit tobacco.

n A free, self-guided web program to help Minnesotans quit.

n Free patches, gum, and lozenges to those enrolled in the phone coaching program.

n Free, on-site group counseling through the Quitplan at Work program.

The Quitplan Helpline offers telephone counseling and free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum to eligible callers. 1-888-354-PLAN (7526).

At, the website offers free lifetime membership, helpful quitting tools and activities and the option to connect online with thousands of others who have chosen to quit tobacco.

The Quitplan at Work program offers free onsite, professional group counseling for eligible businesses with at least eight employees ready to stop smoking.

If you're having trouble quitting on your own, give Quitplan a try -- it really does help to have some support.