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New Poll Shows Strong Public Support For FDA Regulation of Tobacco

Support for Congressional Action Crosses Geographic, Demographic and Political Lines and Is Especially Strong Among Suburban Women
March 29, 2000

Washington, DC - A new poll of 800 likely voters shows overwhelming support for giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling that the FDA does not currently have the authority to regulate tobacco, the poll also shows that two-thirds of voters would prefer a candidate for Congress who supports legislation granting the FDA authority over tobacco to a candidate who opposes such legislation.

By a three to one margin (75 percent to 22 percent), voters want Congress to pass a bill that would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, including 61 percent who strongly favor congressional action. This support crosses all geographic, demographic, gender, and political lines, with majorities of voters in every region, age bracket, income group, education level and political party favoring FDA regulation. Even 60 percent of smokers favor congressional action. Congressional action is supported by 78 percent of Independents, 77 of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans (inclu ing 65 percent of conservative Republicans). Support for Congressional action is especially strong among the key voter group of suburban women, 80 percent of whom say it is important that Congress pass a bill giving the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products.

Voter support of FDA regulation is not surprising given the electorate’s acute concern about tobacco use by kids. Eighty-eight percent of voters say they are at least somewhat concerned about youth tobacco use, including 63 percent who say they are very concerned. Among suburban women, 70 percent say they are very concerned about youth tobacco use. Voters overwhelmingly support a broad range of actions that the FDA could take to regulate tobacco products:

  • 92 percent support restricting tobacco sales to children by requiring ID checks for younger buyers, requiring tobacco to be placed behind the counter, and limiting vending machine sales.
  • 90 percent support requiring tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in tobacco products.
  • 87 percent support restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children, such as limiting advertising in magazines with high youth readership under age 18.
  • 77 percent support requiring the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products.

By a margin of 67 percent to 23 percent, voters prefer a candidate for Congress who supports legislation granting the FDA authority over tobacco to a candidate who opposes such legislation. Support for a “pro-FDA regulation” candidate cuts across party lines, with 71 percent of Independents, 69 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans preferring the candidate who favors FDA authority over tobacco products.

“This poll shows that voters have a clear message for Congress: Protect our kids and not the tobacco companies,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. “Voters clearly agree with the Supreme Court that tobacco use is the most significant public health threat in the United States. They are telling us loudly and clearly that they want Congress to enact legislation to grant the FDA authority to regulate tobacco and protect America’s families and children.”

The telephone survey was conducted by The Mellman Group of Washington, DC, for the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, the largest non-governmental initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. The nationwide survey of 800 likely voters was conducted March 22 to March 23. Respondents were selected using random digit dialing techniques to insure an unbiased sample. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is larger.