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National Poll Reveals Public Sentiment on Tobacco Agreement's Treatment of Tobacco Farmers -- Divided Opinion on Financial Support; Any Relief Should be Used to Develop Alternatives to Tobacco Farming, Not to Grow It Profitably

September 11, 1997

Washington, DC - A nationwide poll taken last month reveals the American public’s overwhelming belief that any financial assistance provided to tobacco farmers impacted as a result of the proposed tobacco agreement should be used to help develop alternatives to tobacco farming -- not to fund programs to help ensure that farmers continue to grow tobacco profitably. This sentiment is widely held, even in states where a significant part of the economy is related to tobacco farming. The poll was commissioned by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and released in conjunction with today’s Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing on tobacco farmers and the proposed tobacco agreement. Its findings, which demonstrate that the public supports alternatives to tobacco farming, were presented to Committee members during testimony by Scott Ballin, senior policy consultant to the CAMPAIGN. Americans were evenly divided on whether tobacco farmers should or should not receive financial assistance from the proposed tobacco agreement. Of those polled, 34 percent were found to be in favor of this concept; 37 percent were opposed, while 29 percent took no position. Support for helping the farmers was stronger in the six largest tobacco-producing states -- North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. In those states, 45 percent of the public favored using tobacco agreement funds to help farmers, while 31 percent were opposed. Another 24 percent were undecided on the issue. Americans, however, do feel strongly that if any assistance is provided to farmers, it should be used to help them develop alternatives to tobacco farming. According to the poll, more than three-fourths -- a full 77 percent -- support the use of such funds to develop alternatives to tobacco growing, while only 11 percent said the money should be used to help the farmers continue to grow tobacco profitably. The remainder were undecided. Even in the six largest tobacco growing states, 69 percent of the respondents there supported allocating any tobacco agreement assistance money towards helping farmers find alternatives to growing the product. Twenty-one percent said that the money should go towards helping farmers continue to grow tobacco profitably. 'The results of this survey indicate that opposition to tobacco’s dangers has grown so great that the public believes tobacco farmers should be encouraged to find other ways to make their livelihood,' said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. 'While the public has mixed feelings on whether tobacco farmers should receive any financial relief at all from the tobacco agreement, those polled -- including those in tobacco-producing states whose economies are dependent on the crop -- have expressed a clear desire for farmers to move out of tobacco production and into other areas.' The random telephone survey of 1,000 adults, split evenly between men and women from across the nation, was conducted by Market Facts’ TeleNation from August 15-17, 1997. The margin of error for the full sample of 1,000 respondents is +/- 3 percentage points. 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. Note to editors: Survey data demographic breakdowns are available upon request.