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Tennesseans Support Significant Tobacco Policy Changes

Poll shows strong support to raise the tobacco sale age to 21, ensure smoke-free places
March 29, 2019

Nashville, Tenn. – March 28, 2019 – NashvilleHealth, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and CityHealth today released new poll results that show a strong majority of Tennesseans are in favor of raising the tobacco sale age to 21, with an overwhelming majority saying electronic cigarettes should be included in the law. Support for Tobacco 21 is broad and deep across the state, crossing partisan, ideological, demographic and geographic lines.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Tennessee voters support increasing the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21, and 86 percent believe e-cigarettes should be included. Intensity is strong with 48 percent of voters saying they strongly favor the tobacco age increase.

Voters in the state also strongly support smoke-free workplaces and overwhelmingly back dedicated tobacco prevention funding to bring down smoking rates and combat the new epidemic of e-cigarette use among youth. The poll shows that 78 percent of voters favor a state law to make all indoor public spaces smoke-free. Support is well over 70 percent across party lines, with even a majority of smokers (56 percent) backing smoke-free workplace legislation. Meanwhile, 80 percent of those polled support dedicating at least $4 million of the state’s tobacco revenue funds to tobacco prevention programs.

NashvilleHealth has partnered with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, to commission the poll, which was conducted statewide by Public Opinion Strategies.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Tennessee, yet 125,000 children alive today will still die from this behavior unless smoking rates decline,” Sen. Bill Frist, MD, said. “Studies show that raising the sale age for tobacco products will make a substantial difference, and these data show that Tennesseans are incredibly supportive.”

The majority of voters in Tennessee, seven in 10, are concerned about smoking and other tobacco use among young people in the state. Tennesseans are even more concerned about the use of e-cigarettes among young people in the state (77 percent concerned), with half of voters saying they are very concerned.

“A comprehensive Tobacco 21 law with strong enforcement mechanisms will help Tennessee save lives and protect children. Today’s poll results show that the public wants and supports such action,” said Chris Sherwin, vice president for state advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Tennesseans are ready and eager to support tobacco prevention policies – from Tobacco 21 to a comprehensive smoke-free law to increased funding for tobacco prevention. We hope that the state’s policymakers will hear and heed this clarion call for action. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is proud to be partnering with NashvilleHealth and CityHealth to support tobacco prevention and cessation policies that will help Tennessee become stronger and healthier in the years ahead.”

“The science has long been clear that eliminating smoke in the workplace and raising the tobacco age to 21 are key steps policymakers can put into place to secure good health for their constituents,” Shelley Hearne, DrPH, President of CityHealth, said. “Now we know that Tennessee voters overwhelmingly approve of these measures to create a state with healthier kids, thriving families, and stronger communities.”

The poll included a random statewide sample of 600 registered voters with 300 cell phone respondents and was conducted from Feb. 7-10, 2019, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

To date, eight states have raised their tobacco sale age to 21 – California, Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, Utah and Virginia – along with over 440 localities across the country. Illinois and Washington have also adopted Tobacco 21 measures that are pending the governor’s signature to become law in each state. A number of other states are close to raising the tobacco sale age to 21 as well.

About NashvilleHealth

NashvilleHealth is dedicated to making Nashville-Davidson County one of the healthiest places in the state and the nation to live by achieving measurable gains in the health of all residents. To achieve this goal, we are working to create a culture of health and wellbeing by serving as a convener to open dialogue, align resources and build smart strategic partnerships to create a bold plan for health and wellbeing in Nashville, nashvillehealth.org.

About the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. We work to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

About CityHealth

CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, advances a package of evidence-based policy solutions that will help millions of people live longer, better lives in vibrant, prosperous communities. CityHealth regularly evaluates cities on the number and strength of their policies.