Pubdate: Sun, 29 Oct 2006
Source: Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City, UT)
Copyright: 2006 Deseret News Publishing Corp.
Author: Angie Welling, Deseret Morning News
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance survey


U.S. Poll Finds 45% Would Back Making Cigarettes Illegal

A national survey released Thursday by the Drug Policy Alliance
indicates a high level of support for making cigarettes illegal over
the next 10 years.

Forty-five percent of the 1,200 Americans questioned by Zogby
International said they would either strongly support or somewhat
support a federal law making cigarettes illegal within the next five
to 10 years. Just over half, 52 percent, said they would either
somewhat or strongly oppose such a measure. The poll had a margin of
error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

Local anti-tobacco advocates reacted to the poll with interest

"I think it's indicative that we've come a long way in recognizing
just how unhealthy smoking is, so in that respect I'm rather
encouraged," said Lena Dibble, media coordinator for the Utah
Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

At the same time, she said, a ban on cigarettes would never

"It's just not realistic in the world that we live in to do that,"
Dibble said.

Beverly May, regional advocacy director for the Campaign for
Tobacco-Free Kids, agreed that an outright ban would not be effective.

"Once you get down to brass tacks, anyone with any credibility in
anti-tobacco issues would not go for this sort of thing," she said.
"We don't criminalize people who are smoking. We want to be able to
deter and help and all of those good things."

With no legislation proposed, or even on the horizon, for
criminalizing cigarettes, May also wondered what prompted the Drug
Policy Alliance to ask the question in the first place.

"I don't know of anyone in the world that's supporting such a thing,
and certainly we don't support it in any way," she said. "It kind of
sets it up like a straw man in a way; it's not really something that
someone has proposed."

Tony Newman, communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance,
said the alliance is concerned that increasingly restrictive
tobacco-related measures could lead to a prohibition on cigarettes.

"We're seeing a trend of people who would support it with cigarettes,"
Newman said. "We want public health officials to see very clearly that
we want to reduce cigarette smoking, but we cannot make it illegal.

"We need to start that discussion right away," he said.

A Thursday news release from the Drug Policy Alliance states that
"making cigarettes illegal would prove no more effective than our
current disastrous war on drugs" and indicates the group is preparing
an educational campaign about the unintended consequences of a ban.

Still, May isn't convinced such a campaign -- or any additional
surveying about an as-yet-unproposed ban -- is even necessary.

"The right way to protect public health is to implement scientific
proof and policies to reduce smoking," she said. "And that's what
we'll continue to do to fight it." 
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