Feb. 14 2001
Jefferson City, MO — As Governor Bob Holden and the Missouri Legislature consider how to spend the state's money from the tobacco settlement, a poll released today shows voters overwhelmingly support dedicating 20 percent of tobacco settlement funds to a comprehensive program to reduce smoking in Missouri. A program dedicating 10 percent of the settlement to tobacco prevention fails to draw majority support from voters.
The survey of 600 registered Missouri voters was released today by the Missouri Partnership on Smoking or Health as the member groups announced their opposition to Governor Holden's plan to spend just 10 percent of the settlement money on tobacco prevention.
The poll finds that more than three out of four Missouri voters (77 percent) support spending 20 percent of the settlement on a comprehensive tobacco prevention program to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids. This overwhelming support comes from a broad-based coalition of voters, including 77 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of Independents. Just 22 percent of voters oppose the proposal.
Missouri voters also say they will express their desire for tobacco prevention at the polls. Sixty-nine percent of the voters said they are more likely to vote for a candidate for the Missouri State Legislature who supports dedicating 20 percent of the tobacco settlement dollars to tobacco prevention. Only 22 percent of voters would be more likely to vote for the candidate who opposes such a plan.
"If you're looking for a truly bipartisan issue, protecting kids from tobacco is it," said Dimitri Pantazopoulos, of Market Strategies, Inc., who conducted the poll in concert with Global Strategies, Inc. "Voters of all stripes across the state clearly understand that the first priority for spending tobacco settlement dollars should be reducing tobacco use. Voters clearly want to make sure that enough dollars are dedicated to actually accomplish the task."
To test how strongly voters felt about dedicating 20 percent for tobacco prevention, support for this amount was tested against a plan to spend 10 percent. The 10 percent plan is opposed by key health groups as ineffective. Fully 80 percent of the voters said they would vote for an initiative dedicating 20 percent to tobacco prevention and the rest on expanded healthcare, education, and biomedical research. However, an initiative that reduces the amount for tobacco prevention to just 10 percent receives barely 50 percent support if opposed by key health groups.
"Voters clearly trust the health groups on this issue," said Pantazopoulos.
Added Danny McGoldrick, Research Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, "The problem with dedicating only 10 percent of the settlement to tobacco prevention is that it simply is not enough money to fund a truly comprehensive program. States that are funding truly comprehensive programs, like California and Massachusetts, are not only reducing smoking; they are saving lives and saving money."
Voters expressed greater support for spending tobacco settlement money on tobacco prevention programs than other possible uses of the funds. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed favor spending a significant portion of the settlement dollars on tobacco prevention, including 64 percent who "strongly favor" this use of the money. Only research to find a possible cure for cancer is strongly favored by more voters (73%) as a use for the settlement funds. In contrast, only 37 percent strongly support giving state taxpayers a refund of $100, and just 18 percent strongly favor setting the money aside in a rainy day fund.
Said Lynne Schlosser, Missouri Grassroots Coordinator for the American Cancer Society and Chair of the Partnership, "The comprehensive program in California has already helped reduce lung and bronchial cancer rates much faster than in other parts of the country. With nearly 90 percent of lung cancer cases and 30 percent of all cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking, we must invest tobacco settlement funds in tobacco prevention if we want to win the war on cancer here in Missouri."
The survey was conducted by Market Strategies, Inc., a well-known Republican polling firm and Global Strategies, Inc., a prominent Democratic polling firm. A statewide random sample of 600 registered Missouri voters was interviewed by telephone from October 19 to October 22, 2000. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
The Missouri Partnership on Smoking or Health is a coalition that includes many nonprofit health organizations in the state. Among the members are the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes, Missouri Public Health Association, Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies, Missouri State Medical Association, Missouri Dental Association, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse-St. Louis, Missouri Nurses Association, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Resources, Inc.