First National Survey Plays Critical Role in Support for FDA Tobacco Control Policy

In 1994 and 1995, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., in Princeton, N.J. carried out and analyzed the first national household survey of public attitudes toward various government policy measures designed to limit youth access to tobacco products and make those products less attractive to young people.

Public opinion regarding these issues had been gathered in the 19 states involved in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) SmokeLess States® Program in an effort to help coalitions develop statewide plans and activities to reduce tobacco use, especially among children and teens.

Yet no national survey had focused on attitudes toward the various options then being considered.

Key Findings

  • In spite of the perceived anti-regulatory mood of the public, there was broad support for most measures to restrict youth access and promotion of tobacco products, which cut across age, sex, ethnicity, political ideology, party, and region of residence. That support extended to residents of tobacco-growing states.

  • Measures receiving the broadest support include:

    • Banning vending machines, self-service displays, and coupon promotions.
    • Verifying identification of youthful purchasers.
    • Eliminating the distribution of free cigarettes.
  • While advertising bans were supported by a majority of the population, these restrictions appear to be more polarizing. Young male adults, in particular, demonstrated weaker support for advertising bans.

  • Although support for many measures to curb children's access to tobacco products and to make these products less appealing was broadly based, women, older adults, African Americans, Hispanics, and those who have lost a family member or friend to tobacco-related disease (a group representing 44% of the adults surveyed) were slightly more supportive of most policies.

  • The public overwhelmingly believed nicotine is addictive (92%), and that it was relatively easy, despite the law, for minors to buy cigarettes (68%).