Poll: Americans Want McCain Tobacco Bill Passed, Public Health Funding Restored

Public Twice as Likely to Vote for Supporters of the Bill in November

Jun. 16 1998

Washington, DC - ENACT, a coalition of 50 public health organizations, released a new poll today showing continued strong support for the comprehensive tobacco control legislation currently under consideration in the Senate. The poll also reveals overwhelming support for restoring public health funding in the bill, and it provides a view of the political liability for Senators who choose Big Tobacco over America’s kids. “This poll confirms that the American public is watching what we do here and is demanding a bill that protects kids and reduces youth smoking,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and sponsor of the tobacco control legislation. “The Senate has been debating this bill for nearly a month. It is time to pass the legislation to provide the tools to combat the epidemic of youth tobacco use in this country,” added Bill Novelli, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Despite a multi-million dollar advertising and lobbying effort by the tobacco industry to defeat the McCain legislation, 62 percent of registered voters support the bill, while only 31 percent oppose it. That support increased to 66 percent when those polled were told more about specific provisions contained in the legislation. By an overwhelming margin, the public opposes extraneous amendments to the legislation that divert funding from the public health provisions, such as the Gramm and Coverdell amendments that stripped funding from the legislation last week. Seventy-nine percent of those polled believe the tobacco bill should address only tobacco issues, while only 18 percent think the bill should address other issues such as tax cuts and illegal drugs. In fact, 61 percent of those polled favor restoring the funding to the public health provisions, with 33 percent opposing. “The American people understand that a comprehensive tobacco control bill must have the resources to do the job of combating tobacco use among teens,” said Senator John Chafee (R-RI). “As a result of the Gramm and Coverdell amendments, it is possible that all the tobacco control money will be siphoned away. To protect kids, it is imperative that this funding is restored and the legislation passed.” The poll also reveals a potential political liability for those Senators who fail to support a comprehensive tobacco control effort. By more than a two to one margin, registered voters are more likely to vote for the candidate who supports the bill (44 percent) over the candidate who opposes it (18 percent). “Senators must realize the effect their vote on this bill may have when the public goes to the polls in November,” said Novelli. Jennie Cook, chair of the American Cancer Society’s national board of directors, added, “Every vote this week will show us whether the Senators stand for kids by passing the comprehensive bill, or stand with Big Tobacco by delaying or disabling the legislation.” The poll of 924 American adults, 784 of whom are registered voters, was conducted June 12-15, 1998 by Market Facts’ TeleNation, an independent polling firm based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and commissioned by the Washington, DC-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points for the sample of all adults, and plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for registered voters. ENACT (Effective National Action to Control Tobacco) is a Washington, DC-based coalition of 50 leading health organizations that have pledged to work with Congress, the Administration, the public health community and the American people to pass comprehensive, sustainable, well-funded national tobacco control legislation.

 

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