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New Poll: Americans Strongly Support FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products, Oppose Efforts to Weaken Oversight of E-Cigarettes and Cigars

Poll Released as Tobacco Industry Pushes Budget Riders to Weaken FDA Oversight
April 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Voters across party lines overwhelmingly support the 2009 law that gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, and large majorities oppose efforts to weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars, according to a national poll conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The poll was released as Congress negotiates a spending bill that must be passed by April 28 to keep the government open. Tobacco companies are pushing to insert provisions (riders) in the bill that would greatly weaken FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars. The poll found clear opposition to weakening FDA authority over tobacco products:

  • More than three-quarters (78 percent) of voters support FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, with 65 percent expressing strong support. After being read arguments on both sides, 61 percent of voters said Congress should not weaken the FDA’s authority to regulate e-cigarettes, while only 32 percent supported limiting the FDA’s authority.
  • By a nearly two-to-one margin (60 percent to 34 percent), voters say Congress should continue to allow the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including large premium cigars, rather than pass a law preventing the FDA from regulating such cigars. One of the provisions before Congress would completely exempt “large and premium cigars” from FDA oversight, but defines such cigars so broadly it could end up exempting cheap, machine-made, flavored cigars that are widely used by kids.

The telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted jointly by Public Opinion Strategies, a prominent Republican polling firm, and the Mellman Group, a prominent Democratic polling firm. Interviews were conducted April 5-10, 2017.

Other key findings include:

  • 84 percent of voters support the 2009 law that gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, including 75 percent who strongly favor it. Just 12 percent opposed the law. Even 83 percent of smokers support the law.
  • FDA oversight of tobacco products has robust, bipartisan backing, with support from 82 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats. The 2009 law is strongly favored both by voters who approve of President Trump’s performance (81 percent favor, 15 percent oppose) and voters who disapprove of his performance (87 percent favor, 11 percent oppose).
  • Voters prioritize regulating tobacco to save lives over limiting regulations. Seven in ten voters (70 percent) agreed with a statement arguing that Congress should not limit the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco to help reduce smoking and save lives, while just 27 percent agreed that Congress should act to prevent the FDA from imposing too many regulations on businesses.

“While some American voters believe that there are too many government regulations, this survey makes clear that FDA regulation of tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes, is not a concern,” said Glen Bolger, partner and co-founder of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.

“In these highly partisan times, support for strong FDA oversight of tobacco products is one issue that unites voters across party lines,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Voters recognize that all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars, should be regulated by the FDA to protect our kids and the nation’s health. Congress should listen and reject the pending proposals to weaken FDA oversight.”

The 2009 law gave the FDA immediate authority over cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. In May 2016, the FDA issued a new rule establishing jurisdiction over e-cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products. Fifty-one leading public health and medical organizations recently wrote Congress to urge rejection of the proposals to weaken FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars.

While the 2009 law prohibited candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, manufacturers in recent years have introduced a huge assortment of flavored e-cigarettes and cigars, which have helped fuel the popularity of these products among kids. Youth use of e-cigarettes soared from 2011 to 2015, surpassing use of regular cigarettes, and more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes, surveys show. Scientific evidence points to the wide availability of flavors – from cherry crush and gummy bear for e-cigarettes to banana smash and chocolate for cigars – as a major reason these products appeal to kids.

The poll found strong voter support for prohibiting the use of candy and fruit flavoring in tobacco products in general (76 percent to 21 percent), as well as in e-cigarettes specifically (73 percent to 23 percent). Voters also favor a number other specific steps the FDA could take:

  • 94 percent favor restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children.
  • 89 percent support requiring tobacco companies to submit new tobacco products to the FDA for review before they are allowed to be sold.
  • 88 percent support requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when scientifically possible, to make tobacco products less harmful.
  • 82 percent favor 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.
  • 82 percent support requiring large graphic warning labels on cigarette packs to better convey the health risks of smoking.

View full results of the poll, including a summary from the polling firms and an annotated questionnaire. The national survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by cellphone and landline April 5-10, 2017. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.