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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 27, 2004

Poll: Iowans Support Tobacco Tax Increase, Want More Spent On Health Research

A poll released today by the University of Iowa College of Public Health and Research!America shows 71 percent of Iowans believe that the state's tax on cigarettes -- currently 36 cents per pack -- should be increased. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of poll respondents think the tax should be raised by a dollar or more per pack.

At the same time, a large majority (82 percent) believes that money received by the state from tobacco settlements should be spent on health promotion and public health research. Similarly, 82 percent support the use of a portion of lottery sales revenues to increase funding for those programs.

The poll also found that Iowa residents are willing to put their vote behind increases in public health research funding. A full 86 percent of those polled say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increased funding for research to find cures and prevent disease. Support for education (91 percent) and job creation (89 percent) were just as important when choosing candidates. Protecting natural resources and the environment (79 percent) and health services and health education programs (69 percent) completed the top five issues. Homeland security, as well as rural and farm safety and health programs, were close behind (68 percent).

"This poll clearly illustrates the commitment Iowa residents have for promoting better health and building healthier communities, even in times of fiscal crisis," said James Merchant, M.D., dean of the UI College of Public Health. "Clearly, the citizens of this state see the importance of investing public funds in public health research, which will ultimately save lives, reduce suffering and save money."

The poll also revealed public support for other health-related research and funding:

-- 81 percent favor regulations that would control air emissions from large-scale animal feeding operations.

-- 93 percent favor initiatives that will promote programs that ensure clean water.

-- 90 percent favor programs to promote healthy communities and neighborhoods, and 85 percent favor those that make physical activity easier, such as access to walkways and biking paths.

-- 83 percent favor initiatives to prepare communities for catastrophic events, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

-- 79 percent favor a system requiring purchasers of beer kegs to register their names to prevent someone over age 21 from buying a keg for underage drinkers.

-- 78 percent favor eliminating the sale of unhealthy food and beverages in public schools.

-- 75 percent feel the current amount spent on public health research -- less than one cent of every U.S. health care dollar -- is too little.

-- 96 percent say it was very important to study a relationship between lower income households and increased health problems.

"The direct results of public health research are the reduction in disease and disability and enhanced health and well being," said John Lowe, Dr.P.H., UI professor and head of community and behavioral health, and director of the UI Prevention Research Center. "Iowans clearly make the connection and want to see quality of life improved for all residents of the state."

It is important that the concerns identified in the Iowa survey lead to enhanced support for public health research at the local level, according to Christopher Atchison, associate dean for public health practice at the UI College of Public Health.

"Clearly, Iowans value public health," Atchison observed. "Now we have to ensure that every community can access the expertise of public health professionals, who are skilled in identifying and addressing infectious and chronic diseases as well as the environmental conditions which can lead to or make those diseases worse."

Iowa residents believe more should be invested in public health research. Three quarters (75 percent) responding to the poll say the current spending level -- less than one cent of every health care dollar on public health research -- was not enough. Most (72 percent) say they would support doubling or more than doubling public health research funding.

"Public health research helps improve our quality of life and enables individuals to have a healthier future," said Mary Woolley, president of Research!America. "With adequate support, public health research can be a crucial force in preventing disease and disability."

The poll was commissioned by Research!America's Prevention Research Initiative in partnership with the UI College of Public Health. Research!America is a not-for-profit, membership-supported public education and outreach alliance founded in 1989 to make medical and health research -- including research to prevent disease, disability and injury and to promote health -- a much higher national priority.

Harris Interactive conducted the poll by telephone within Iowa with 800 adult residents ages 18 and over between Dec. 3-23, 2003. The survey data were weighted by age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), household size and the number of telephone lines in the household to reflect the demographic composition of the Iowa population using the March 2002 Current Population Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. The results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 4 percentage points of what they would be if the entire population of Iowa had been polled with complete accuracy.

STORY SOURCE: The University of Iowa College of Public Health, Office of Communications, 4261 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242; Research!America, 1101 King Street, Suite 520, Alexandria, VA 22314.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Dan McMillan, 319-335-6835,; Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647,; John Friedman, Research!America, 703-739-2577, ext. 20,