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New Poll: Voters Strongly Support FDA Regulation of Tobacco, Say It Would Be Important Accomplishment for Congress

Senate HELP Committee to Consider Legislation on Wednesday
July 16, 2007

Washington, DC — As the Senate HELP Committee prepares to vote Wednesday on legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, a new national poll released today finds that voters not only strongly support the legislation, they also believe it would be an important accomplishment for Congress. The poll finds that 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 72 percent believe passage of the legislation would be an important accomplishment.

FDA regulation of tobacco is supported across political lines, geographic regions and even by a majority of smokers. The poll found support from:

  • Strong majorities of Republicans (72 percent), Democrats (71 percent) and Independents (68 percent);
  • Voters in the Northeast (78 percent), Midwest (68 percent), South (71 percent) and West (66 percent); and
  • Both smokers (63 percent) and non-smokers (74 percent).

Even in a sample of tobacco-growing congressional districts, where separate polls were conducted, an overwhelming majority of voters support FDA regulation of tobacco products.

“Across the nation, there is broad, bipartisan support for FDA regulation of tobacco products,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “There are few issues before Congress on which you’d find such strong consensus across regions and across party lines. Americans agree that it’s time for Congress to address the nation’s number one preventable cause of death and end the deadly status quo that allows tobacco companies to target our children and mislead the public.”

Support for FDA regulation of tobacco climbs even higher (82 percent) when voters hear specific provisions of the bill and remains high (76 percent) after hearing arguments for and against the legislation.

The poll shows:

  • 80 percent support restricting tobacco sales to children by requiring ID checks for younger buyers and fining retailers who sell tobacco to minors.
  • 76 percent support restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children such as limiting advertising in magazines with a large percentage of readers under age 18.
  • 68 percent support preventing tobacco companies from making claims that some products are less harmful than others unless the FDA determines those claims are true.
  • 68 percent support requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when scientifically possible, to make cigarettes less harmful.
  • 67 percent support requiring the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products.

The poll also found that 55 percent of voters would have a more favorable opinion of Congress if it passes legislation giving the FDA authority over tobacco, while only 12 percent would have a less favorable opinion.

“At a time when Americans are deeply concerned about whether this Congress will achieve significant results, passage of this legislation would be seen as an accomplishment important enough to change voters’ views of Congress,” said Mark Mellman, President and CEO of The Mellman Group.

A recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that in order for the United States to dramatically reduce tobacco use as a significant public health problem, it is essential to provide FDA authority over tobacco products. As the IOM concluded, “The time has come for Congress to exercise its acknowledged authority to regulate the production, marketing and distribution of tobacco products.”

Identical, bipartisan bills to grant the FDA authority over tobacco have been introduced in the Senate and House by U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA). Demonstrating strong, bipartisan support, the legislation has 52 Senate sponsors and cosponsors and 192 House sponsors and cosponsors. The Senate bill is scheduled for consideration Wednesday by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chaired by Senator Kennedy.

Nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 23 percent of high school students smoke and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers every day. Yet tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect consumers’ health.

The national survey of 800 registered voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and the Mellman Group May 31-June 4, 2007 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Click here to view detailed poll results on the national and four district polls.