Jul. 30 1998
Washington, DC - Less than one-third of U.S. voters would support the U.S. House of Representatives’ Republican leadership’s limited tobacco bill if it reduces existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority and if it is opposed by major health groups, according to a poll released today by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. Overall, he national survey reflected voters’ strong support for FDA’s regulation to protect kids from tobacco. The House Republican leadership has announced that it may release an outline of a tobacco measure that would weaken the FDA’s two major initiatives to reduce tobacco use among kids -- limiting youth access to tobacco products and curbing tobacco marketing -- as well as the agency’s authority to protect smokers from the most harmful components in tobacco products. “The Republican legislative proposal now being drafted runs directly counter to widespread public opinion which favors strong action to protect children,” said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. Large majorities of voters, regardless of party affiliation, support FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of tobacco products. Fully 87 percent of all registered voters agree that the FDA should have the authority to regulate the way tobacco is sold, such as requiring ID checks for younger buyers, requiring tobacco products’ placement behind the counter, and limiting vending machine sales. The Republican proposal reportedly would eliminate the FDA’s current rules that curtail the illegal sale of tobacco products to kids. Less than one-third of the voters surveyed (32.9%) said they would favor a limited tobacco bill that reduces FDA authority. When asked if they would favor such a bill in the House if it were supported by Speaker Gingrich and the Republican leadership but opposed by groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, 32.5 percent said they would favor it, while 54.2 percent would oppose it. The poll also showed that more than three-fourths 75.6%) believe the FDA should have the authority to reduce advertising aimed at kids by limiting such elements as tobacco advertising on billboards and in magazines read by large numbers of kids. The Republican proposal also runs counter to public opinion on this issue, since it would strip the FDA of the power to regulate such advertising. Finally, 74.5 percent of the voters surveyed believe the FDA should be able to require the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products. “Clearly, the public recognizes the dangers of tobacco, the importance of protecting kids from falling prey to a lifetime of nicotine addiction resulting in possible premature death, and thus the need for restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco to kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, executive vice president and general counsel of the CAMPAIGN. “Given the survey findings, it is not surprising that twice as many people would oppose a Republican effort to curtail the FDA’s authority, as would support such an effort.” By a margin of almost two-to-one (63.0% vs. 32.9%), voters believe the FDA should maintain its current federal program to restrict tobacco sales to minors, which is now in place nationwide and requires ID checks of young buyers, rather than leaving it to the states to decide whether to enact their own legislation. When asked if they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported keeping the national FDA program or one who favored leaving youth access restrictions to the states, 58.4 percent of the voters said they were more likely to vote for the candidate who supports the FDA program. Just 29.5 percent said they were more likely to support the candidate who would leave it to the states to decide whether to take action. The national telephone survey of 814 registered voters was conducted July 24-26, 1998 by Market Facts’ TeleNation. The poll has a margin of error +/- 3.4 percentage points. The Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest 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.