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

June 07, 2008

Washington, DC — A new national poll released today finds that voters strongly support legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products and also believe it would be an important accomplishment for Congress. The poll finds that 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 73 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 (66 percent), Democrats (76 percent) and Independents (67 percent);
  • Voters in the Northeast (77 percent), Midwest (72 percent), South (69 percent) and West (63 percent); and
  • Current/occasional smokers (62 percent), former smokers (76 percent) and those who have never smoked (72 percent).

'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 (81 percent) when voters hear specific provisions of the bill. The poll shows:

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

The poll also found that nearly half of the electorate (49 percent) 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. Three out of four voters (77 percent) say that it is important that Congress pass the FDA legislation.

'Voters across the country and across party lines overwhelmingly support giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. Passage of this legislation would be seen as an accomplishment important enough to improve voters' views of Congress among Democrats, independents and Republicans alike,' said Mark Mellman, President and CEO of The Mellman Group.

A 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 57 Senate sponsors and cosponsors and 221 House sponsors and cosponsors. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved this legislation in April and companion legislation was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last year. The legislation is also supported by more than 640 public health, faith and other organizations across the country. Nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 20 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 likely voters was conducted by the Mellman Group May 19-22, 2008 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Find detailed poll results.