WRITER: DAN MCMILLAN
CONTACT: DAVID PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Sept. 7, 1999
Survey: Rural Iowans support tobacco prevention, cessation
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Most rural Iowans support using
money resulting from the state's lawsuit against tobacco companies to fund
smoking prevention and cessation programs, according to a survey conducted
by researchers at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the
University of Northern Iowa.
Survey participants were asked in July to choose the
"most desirable" and "least desirable" way to spend the tobacco settlement
money from a list of several possible options. Of 420 rural adults interviewed,
29 percent thought the first priority should be smoking prevention and cessation.
One quarter of those surveyed favored support for K-12 educational programs
and 20 percent favored providing health insurance for the poor. Only 11 percent
said lowering state taxes was the "most desirable" use of the settlement money.
Twenty-seven percent thought lowering state taxes was the "least desirable"
use of the money, with the next closest item, smoking cessation, considered
the lowest at 14 percent.
"Almost all of the survey respondents want the money
to be used for worthwhile purposes, such as preventing kids from starting
smoking, addressing the needs of Iowa's K-12 educational system and providing
health care to those who cannot afford insurance," said Paul Pomrehn, M.D.,
professor and interim head of community and behavioral health at the college.
Researchers at the UI and UNI conducted the telephone
survey to understand how the public thinks the $1.9 billion tobacco settlement
should be spent. The $1.9 billion is Iowa's share of the more than $200 billion
settlement that was negotiated by the attorneys general from 40 states and
the tobacco industry.
In response to a question about the proportion of
the settlement money that should be used for prevention and cessation programs,
53 percent thought using one-fourth of the money for tobacco prevention/cessation
was "about right." Twenty-seven percent thought one-fourth was "too little,"
12 percent "too much" and 8 percent had no opinion.
This fall, the state legislature will debate how the
tobacco settlement money should be spent. An initial payment of $135 million
is due by June 2000.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates
that tobacco-related illnesses cost Iowa taxpayers $1 billion per year. The
tobacco industry spends $55 million promoting tobacco products in Iowa alone,"
Pomrehn said. "Currently, our state lacks a comprehensive approach to
dealing with tobacco as a public health problem. Other
states that have comprehensive programs have not experienced the increase
in tobacco use like Iowa has. Our survey results indicate that Iowans believe
that at least a quarter of this settlement should be spent addressing the
problem of tobacco use among kids and supporting adults who are quitting smoking."
In addition to Pomrehn, the research was conducted
by Sonali Patel, graduate student in the UI College of Public Health; and
Mary Losch, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and assistant director
of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at UNI.
The survey was funded by the UI Environmental Health
Sciences Research Center.