Tennesseans appear to back stricter regulations on smoking, according to a poll released Tuesday by anti-smoking advocates. The statewide survey asked whether residents support raising the tobacco age and banning smoking in public places. And a sizeable and bipartisan majority said yes.
Even a majority of smokers told pollsters (see a summary of the results here) that they wouldn't mind if smoking were banned in virtually all public places. Dr. Hilary Tindle of Vanderbilt's Center for Tobacco, Addiction and Lifestyle said that makes sense to her since she hears directly from patients suffering from health challenges from a lifetime of smoking.
"These people have children at home, they have grandchildren at home," she says, "so they really care about the health of their family members."
The polling also found nearly two-thirds of Tennesseans would support raising the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21, a current priority for the group that commissioned Public Opinion Strategies to conduct the polling.
NashvilleHealth and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have backed a proposal to raise the tobacco age and increase enforcement aimed at retailers. But the so-called "T21" measures, including a simplified measure backed by tobacco-and-vaping giant Altria, have stalled out over concerns about an estimated $7 million in lost tax revenue.
But the key sponsor says he will use this polling to make his case when he revives the issue next year.
"What I kept getting asked was, 'What does Tennessee think about that?' So this poll clearly shows that Tennessee cares," Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, says. "At the end of the day, a lot of these folks (lawmakers) need to know the state's behind them on this, so it clearly makes a difference."