US: Public opinion regarding banning cigarettes and reducing nicotine levels
Authors: G Connolly, I Behm, C Healton, et al
Reference: American Journal of Public Health: April 2012, Vol. 102, No. 4, pp. e1-e2. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300583
Reviewer: Joaquin Barnoya, MD, MPH
Reviewer comments: The current legal debate regarding the FDA regulating cigarettes' ban and nicotine content is worth exploring outside of the US context. Worthwhile is discussing other countries that might be, or have already, government agencies with such authority. As this paper documents, public support is high, particularly among nonsmokers. Arguing for the decrease in nicotine content as a strategy to protect the youth from becoming smokers is worth exploring in other settings.
Purpose of the study: In the US, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) allows the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to ban ingredients in cigarettes that encourage youth initiation for the protection of public health. Furthermore, the Act allows the FDA to reduce nicotine in cigarettes. This study aims to document the current public opinion of smokers and nonsmokers regarding the possibilities of banning cigarettes or reducing nicotine to nonaddictive levels.
Methods: A nationally representative public opinion survey was conducted from May through June 2011 by Social Science Research Solutions under contract with Harvard School of Public Health. Sample was collected from a bilingual random digit-dialing of landline and cell phones numbers. A single respondent was randomly chosen from each household. Smokers were oversampled. Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statements that cigarettes should be banned and if which of any actions by the FDA regarding nicotine in cigarettes they would support.
Results: Five hundred and eleven nonsmokers and 510 smokeres were interviewed. Fifty five percent of nonsmokers and 33% of smokers supported the banning of cigarettes. Most nonsmokers (73%) and smokers (58%) supported reducing nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels. Nonsmokers were significantly more likely to support the banning of cigarettes (OR 2.70, 95% CI 1.90, 3.83). African Americans and Hispanics were also more likely to support the banning of cigarettes compared to White non-Hispanics. Nonsmokers were significantly more likely than smokers to support reducing nicotine in cigarettes (OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.35, 2.79).