Apr. 6 1999
Washington, DC - As House and Senate conferees in the Florida state legislature debate the future of the successful Florida Tobacco Pilot Program, a new poll shows overwhelming public support for continued funding for the program. The survey of 601 Florida registered voters, commissioned by the Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and released today by the Florida Coalition on Smoking OR Health reveals that vast majorities of voters think the program should be funded at its current level or at a higher level. Poll findings also indicate that Florida voters like the campaign, believe it works, and are more likely to vote for political candidates who support the program. By overwhelming margins, Florida voters want the tobacco prevention program, including the TRUTH campaign, to continue. The TRUTH campaign is the marketing/advertising component of the program. Nearly 80 percent of the voters surveyed think the program should either be funded at its current level of $70 million (38%) or higher (40%). When asked specifically if they support spending at the current level, funding the program at $61.5 million as Governor Jeb Bush and the State Senate have proposed, or funding the program at $30 million as proposed by the House, 49 percent favored funding at the current level, with another 30 percent choosing the $61.5 million figure. Just 16 percent support the House proposal, which would cut funding for the program by more than half. Danny McGoldrick, director of research at the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, which commissioned the poll said, “the strong and consistent support for the program across virtually all sectors of the public is striking. On every measure included in the poll, Florida voters expressed overwhelming support for the program as it is currently being run.” “This should be an easy one for the state legislature,” said Marshall Deason, chairman, government affairs committee for the American Lung Association of Florida. “Here we have a program that has been proven successful and has overwhelming public support, as well as a clear source of funding.” Sigurd Norman, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Cancer Society, Florida Division concurred. “It is now time for the Florida Legislature to agree with Governor Bush and fully fund this innovative and effective program,” he said. “The poll shows that Floridians are very concerned about smoking among our young people,” said William D. College, vice chairman of the board, American Heart Association, Florida/Puerto Rico Affiliate. “We hope that the Florida Legislature will demonstrate that same concern by fully funding the program at $61.5 million.” The vast support for funding the program is not surprising given voters’ favorable opinions of the program and their belief that it will reduce youth tobacco use. Although the Tobacco Pilot Program targets youth, two-thirds (66%) of Florida’s registered voters are aware of the campaign. Among those at least somewhat familiar with it, 80 percent have a favorable opinion of the program. Much of that support likely comes from the fact that two-thirds of the state’s voters believe Florida’s youth prevention program is likely to reduce tobacco use by youth. The Florida Tobacco Pilot Program is a comprehensive youth prevention program funded with a portion of the money from Florida’s 1997 settlement with the tobacco industry. In addition to the TRUTH advertising campaign, the program includes school and community-based efforts to reduce tobacco use among kids, as well as enforcement of laws against tobacco sales to minors. In less than a year since the program’s inception, smoking among Florida middle and high schools students has declined by 18 percent and 8 percent, respectively. The survey was commissioned by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and conducted by Market Strategies, Inc. a national polling firm. A statewide random sample of 601 registered Florida voters was interviewed by telephone from March 27 through March 29, 1999. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. The Florida Coalition on Smoking OR Health is an alliance of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association with the goal of reducing death, disease, and disability from the use of tobacco products. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest non-government initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids.