By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

NashvilleHealth, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and CityHealth recently released new poll results that showed a strong majority of Tennesseans in favor of raising the tobacco sale age to 21, and an overwhelming majority said vaping products and electronic cigarettes should be included in the law.

Support for Tobacco 21 is broad across the state and crossed partisan, ideological, demographic and geographic lines.

To view the poll results, visit nashvillehealth.org/wp-content/upload/2019/03/TN-Statewide-Poll-3-25-19.pdf.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Tennessee voters supported the increase of the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21, and 86 percent believed vaping products and e-cigarettes should be included. Forty-eight percent of voters said they strongly favor the tobacco age increase.

Voters in the state also strongly supported smoke-free workplaces and overwhelmingly backed dedicated tobacco prevention funding to bring down smoking rates and combat the new epidemic of e-cigarette use among youth. The poll showed 78 percent of voters favored a state law to make all indoor public spaces smoke-free. Support was well more than 70 percent across party lines, with even a majority of smokers or 56 percent who backed smoke-free workplace legislation. Meanwhile, 80 percent of those polled supported dedicating at least $4 million of the state’s tobacco revenue funds to tobacco prevention programs.

NashvilleHealth partnered with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, to commission the poll, which was conducted statewide by Public Opinion Strategies.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Tennessee, yet 125,000 children alive today will still die from this behavior unless smoking rates decline,” said former U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Frist. “Studies show that raising the sale age for tobacco products will make a substantial difference, and these data show that Tennesseans are incredibly supportive.”

The majority of voters in Tennessee, seven in 10, were concerned about smoking and other tobacco use among young people in the state. Tennesseans were even more concerned about the use of e-cigarettes among young people in the state at 77 percent, and half of voters said they were very concerned.

“A comprehensive Tobacco 21 law with strong enforcement mechanisms will help Tennessee save lives and protect children. Today’s poll results show that the public wants and supports such action,” said Chris Sherwin, vice president for state advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Tennesseans are ready and eager to support tobacco prevention policies – from Tobacco 21 to a comprehensive smoke-free law to increased funding for tobacco prevention. We hope that the state’s policymakers will hear and heed this clarion call for action. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is proud to be partnering with NashvilleHealth and CityHealth to support tobacco prevention and cessation policies that will help Tennessee become stronger and healthier in the years ahead.”

Shelley Hearne, president of CityHealth, said, “The science has long been clear that eliminating smoke in the workplace and raising the tobacco age to 21 are key steps policymakers can put into place to secure good health for their constituents. Now we know that Tennessee voters overwhelmingly approve of these measures to create a state with healthier kids, thriving families, and stronger communities.”

The poll included a random statewide sample of 600 registered voters with 300 cellphone respondents and was conducted from Feb. 7-10 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

To date, seven states raised their tobacco sale age to 21 – California, Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine and Virginia – along with more than 440 localities across the country. Illinois and Utah also adopted Tobacco 21 measures that are pending the governor’s signature to become law in each state. A number of other states are close to raising the tobacco sale age to 21, as well.