Industry Opposition Strengthens Support For National Tobacco Control Legislation

New Poll Shows Eight out of Ten Americans Want Congress to Act

Apr. 20 1998

Washington, DC - A new poll shows that Americans are more likely to favor a national tobacco control policy because of the tobacco industry’s recent decision to oppose such legislation. The poll, commissioned by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, also reveals that more than 80 percent of Americans now support a comprehensive national tobacco control policy. The new survey of 1,000 adults, conducted from April 13-15, shows that 81 percent favor a national tobacco control policy to reduce tobacco use among kids. Only 17 percent of those polled say they oppose such a policy. Fully 58 percent of survey respondents say that they are more in favor of a national tobacco control policy after hearing the industry’s new position. Only 20 percent say that they are more opposed to such a policy after hearing of the industry’s opposition. A similar poll conducted by another research firm prior to the industry’s announcement showed public support for a national tobacco policy at 70 percent, further suggesting that the industry’s announcement has enhanced support for such a policy. "The industry’s attack on tobacco control legislation has backfired," said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. "Its opposition to Congressional activity and its assault on the legislative process has clearly sharpened the choice in this debate between protecting tobacco companies and protecting kids. The American people obviously believe this is an easy decision." On April 8, RJ Reynolds Chairman Steven Goldstone publicly criticized President Clinton, Congress and the public health community for moving forward with tobacco control legislation. Goldstone was subsequently joined by leaders of the major tobacco companies in saying he would oppose any legislative effort on tobacco, and would actively work to derail the legislative process. The next day, the four largest tobacco companies launched a multifaceted national publicity campaign against tobacco legislation. The poll, however, shows that this new industry approach is unlikely to sway the public. Fully 78 percent of American say Congress should pass national tobacco control legislation whether the industry supports it or not, with a remarkable 61 percent of these people saying they hold this position "strongly." The public does not view the tobacco industry’s support as necessary for the passage of legislation to reduce tobacco use. Novelli continued, "President Clinton, Senator McCain and many other congressional leaders have shown a strong commitment to moving forward with tobacco control legislation, with or without the industry’s participation. We believe that, with the support of the American people and the public health community, Congress will act quickly and decisively to pass comprehensive tobacco control legislation this year." In fighting legislation, the tobacco companies argue that Congress is being too hard on them and that they, along with retailers, wholesalers, distributors and growers, will suffer severe financial difficulty if tough legislation is passed. This position is rejected by the American public in this poll: nearly three-fourths believe that the industry exaggerates these claims and that reducing tobacco use among kids is more important than the financial health of the industry. "It is clear now that failure to act on tobacco this year, or passage of weakened legislation, will be viewed by the public as a surrender to Big Tobacco," Novelli said. "The tobacco industry’s return to the same sort of trench warfare it has used for decades has only increased opposition to its tactics, and hardened the resolve for speedy action to protect kids and save lives." The 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.

 

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