TOBACCO: What The Public Wants From Anti-Smoking Legislation
An article appearing in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association looks at the dynamics of public opinion surrounding the failure of comprehensive tobacco legislation in Congress this summer. Studying public opinion polls, authors Robert Blendon and John Young of the Harvard School of Public Health found that the tobacco bill "did not have the broad public support once anticipated and therefore voting against this bill would lead to little voter backlash." Specifically, in no survey did public support reach 60% for the bill drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), largely due to the public's reservations over the size of the tax increase, concerns about big government and the feeling that the bill would do little to actually decrease teen smoking. With respect to future government action, the authors stress that while Americans favor a bill narrower in scope than the McCain bill, 66% still support some sort of "alternative legislation on the issue."
What The People Want
According to Blendon's and Young's analysis, the public would favor "requiring tobacco companies to disclose their research on the health effects of their products; forcing the companies to support large-scale educational campaigns on the dangers of using tobacco products ... banning cigarette vending machines ... regulating the contents of tobacco products; forcing the companies to divulge product ingredients; restricting tobacco advertising ... and modestly increasing taxes specifically earmarked for public education and for increased medical research on tobacco-related illnesses." But the authors conclude that the public would oppose any legislation "that produces 100s of billions of dollars of new revenues for the Congress to use on an unrestricted basis; the end of sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies, the penalizing of tobacco companies for future teenage-smoking behavior, and the protection of tobacco companies from future lawsuits, without the companies paying a substantial settlement from their own funds" (10/14 issue).