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New Poll: Americans Strongly Support FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products, Want Limits on E-Cigarettes, Oppose Congressional Efforts to Shield Cigars

April 14, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – American voters overwhelmingly support the 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and oppose efforts to curtail that authority, according to a national poll conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Voters strongly oppose efforts by the cigar industry to get Congress to exempt some cigars from FDA regulation and support FDA regulation of electronic cigarettes.

The telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted jointly by prominent Republican and Democratic polling firms Public Opinion Strategies and The Mellman Group.

Key findings of the poll include:

  • Fully 81 percent favor the law that gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, including 69 percent who strongly favor it. Just 15 percent oppose the law. The law has robust bipartisan support: 76 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Democrats support it. Even 76 percent of smokers polled said they back the law.

  • By a nearly two-to-one margin, voters say that Congress should continue to allow the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including large premium cigars. 62 percent say Congress should continue to allow the FDA to regulate large premium cigars, while just 33 percent say that Congress should pass a law preventing the FDA from regulating such cigars.

  • Nearly three-in-four voters (72 percent) favor FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, with just 22 percent opposed.

“These poll results show that voters understand all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars, should be regulated by the FDA to protect our children and the nation’s health,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Our kids can’t wait – the FDA must act quickly to regulate all tobacco products and Congress must not diminish the agency’s authority.”

The 2009 law directed the FDA to immediately regulate cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco and authorized the FDA to extend its jurisdiction to all tobacco products. Nonetheless, the FDA waited until April 25, 2014, to issue a proposed rule asserting jurisdiction over other tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes. The agency has yet to issue a final rule. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health groups have called on the FDA and the Obama Administration to issue that final rule by April 25, 2015.

In the absence of regulation, tobacco companies have introduced a wide variety of e-cigarettes and cheap, flavored cigars, often using sweet flavors and marketing that appeal to kids. The most recent surveys show that youth now use e-cigarettes at higher rates than regular cigarettes and high school boys smoke cigars at the same rate as cigarettes.

Some members of Congress have introduced legislation to exempt certain cigars from FDA regulation. Health advocates have opposed the legislation, arguing that all tobacco products are harmful and should be subject to science-based regulation to protect public health. Advocates have expressed concerns that some smaller, cheaper, sweet-flavored cigars that appeal to kids could also escape regulation under the legislation, and that any cigar exemption would invite tobacco companies to modify their products to avoid regulation.

“While some American voters believe that there are too many government regulations, this survey makes clear that FDA regulation of tobacco and cigars is not a concern,” said Glen Bolger, partner and co-founder of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. Not only do voters favor FDA authority over tobacco products generally, but they also strongly favor many specific actions the FDA has taken or could take to reduce tobacco use:

  • 96 percent favor helping prevent tobacco sales to children by requiring ID checks for younger buyers.

  • 92 percent favor helping prevent tobacco sales to children by fining retailers who sell tobacco to minors.

  • 91 percent favor restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children.

  • 86 percent support requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when scientifically possible, to make tobacco products less harmful.

  • 86 percent favor requiring tobacco companies to submit any new tobacco products to the FDA for review before they are allowed to be sold.

  • 85 percent support preventing tobacco companies from making claims that some products are less harmful than others, unless the FDA determines those claims are true and that those claims will not cause more people to smoke.

  • 81 percent favor requiring the removal of additives or ingredients that make tobacco products more appealing to kids.

  • 81 percent support requiring large graphic warning labels on cigarette packs to better convey the health risks of smoking.

  • 77 percent favor requiring manufacturers to reduce the amount of nicotine in tobacco products so that the tobacco products are not addictive.

  • 76 percent support prohibiting tobacco products from containing candy and fruit flavors that can appeal to kids.

Voters strongly support applying many such measures to e-cigarettes as well: 95 percent support age verification to prevent e-cigarette sales to minors; 92 percent support restrictions on e-cigarette marketing aimed at children; 87 percent support requiring child-resistant packaging for all e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine refills; and 73 percent sport prohibiting the use of candy and fruit flavors that can appeal to kids, such as cherry and cotton candy.

Full results of the poll, including a summary from the pollsters and an annotated questionnaire, can be found here. The national survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by telephone February 2-5, 2015. Thirty percent of interviews were conducted with cell phone respondents. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3.1 percentage points.