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Voters in North Carolina, Other Tobacco States Support FDA Tobacco Regulation But Tobacco Buyout Is Far Less Popular, Poll Finds

Inclusion of FDA Regulation Boosts Support for Buyout
September 15, 2004

Washington, DC — In a clear message to tobacco-state members of Congress, voters in the six leading tobacco-growing states (North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia) express strong support for legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, while the tobacco buyout is supported by less than one-third of voters in these states, according to a poll released today.

Tobacco-state voters are more inclined to support the buyout when it is tied to FDA regulation, and a majority opposes it when it is not, the poll found. In addition, voters who do support a buyout are even more likely than voters who oppose it to prefer that the buyout be paired with FDA regulation of tobacco.

Commissioned by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, the poll was conducted August 30-September 1 by the bipartisan team of Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research, a noted Democratic polling firm, and Market Strategies, Inc., a nationally recognized Republican polling firm with clients including President Bush. The poll’s key findings include:

  • By a margin of 65 percent to 26 percent, tobacco-state voters favor granting FDA authority over tobacco products.
  • Conversely, only 29 percent of these same voters favor a proposed $10 billion buyout for tobacco growers, while 53 percent oppose the buyout.
  • In North Carolina, voters favor FDA tobacco authority by a margin of 59 percent to 33 percent, but only 35 percent support the buyout while 49 percent oppose it.
  • Tobacco-state voters’ support for FDA authority is confirmed by their strong preference for the U.S. Senate-passed version of a buyout, which includes FDA authority, over the House-passed buyout, which does not. By a 20-point margin (50 percent to 30 percent), tobacco-state voters choose the buyout paired with FDA authority over the version that does not include FDA authority.
  • Even more telling, those voters who do favor a buyout are even more likely (57 percent to 33 percent) to prefer the Senate buyout with FDA authority to the House’s buyout-only approach. In North Carolina, voters also strongly prefer the Senate’s combined approach (50 percent to 30 percent), with those who support a buyout even more likely (58 percent to 34 percent) to prefer the Senate approach.

Pollster Anna Greenberg explained, 'The views of tobacco-state voters no longer differ significantly from voters elsewhere. This region of the country has long passed the day that its dependence on tobacco dominates the views of voters. The result is an electorate that supports FDA tobacco authority to protect its children from tobacco addiction and is far less supportive of a tobacco buyout.'

Added Alex Gage of Market Strategies, 'These poll results should demonstrate clearly to tobacco-state members of Congress that voters in their own states do not support a tobacco buyout for growers unless it is combined with authority for the FDA to regulate tobacco products. Put another way, even in tobacco states, a tobacco buyout is far less popular without FDA regulation as a companion.'

Support for FDA tobacco authority grows even stronger when voters hear specifics. Huge majorities of tobacco state voters support each of the following elements of FDA authority:

  • 90 percent (87 percent in North Carolina) support requiring tobacco companies to list all ingredients in their products, as done with other products consumed by the public.
  • 86 percent (85 percent in NC) support setting a national minimum age of 18 to purchase tobacco products and require retailers to ask for a photo ID of anyone appearing to be under age 27.
  • 84 percent (82 percent in NC) support restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children such as limiting advertising in magazines with a large percentage of readers under age 18.
  • 82 percent (82 percent in NC) support requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when scientifically possible, to make cigarettes less harmful.
  • 79 percent (76 percent in NC) support preventing tobacco companies from making claims that some products are less harmful than others unless FDA determines those claims are true.
  • 74 percent (75 percent in NC) support requiring the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products.

'Voters in tobacco states, like voters across the country, support FDA regulation of tobacco products to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Even in the tobacco states, the way to build broad support for the buyout is to link it with FDA authority over tobacco products, as the U.S. Senate has done. Tobacco-state lawmakers are gambling with the buyout if they fail to support the Senate approach that combines a buyout and effective FDA authority.'

The telephone survey, conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2004, involved 1,101 registered likely voters in the six largest tobacco-growing states – 601 in NC and 100 each in KY, VA, SC, TN, and GA. For the overall six-state results, the data are weighted to accurately reflect the population of each individual state. A larger sample was included from North Carolina to get a more in-depth gauge of public opinion in the state that would benefit the most financially from a tobacco buyout. The total sample of 1,101 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, while the North Carolina sample of 601 voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The smaller samples for the other five states have a margin of error of 9.8 percentage points.