New poll: Montanans concerned about tobacco, support cig tax increase

Respondents oppose cigar smoking in bars by 77 percent

By: - March 31, 2021 7:52 pm

E-cigarettes (Wikimedia Commons)

Even cigarette smokers are worried about tobacco use and don’t want cigar smoking in bars.

And 63 percent of Montanans who responded to a survey about tobacco use would support a $1.50 tax increase — on top of the $1.70 tax — on cigarettes. That compares to 61 percent of people in support of such an increase in 2016.

Those figures were shared during a presentation Wednesday about a tobacco poll commissioned by the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The Montana Legislature has taken up bills that deal with tobacco and the Clean Indoor Air Act, and the poll asked 500 respondents related questions.

“We need to make sure the policy solutions we’re working on match the will of the voters and just take those temperatures,” said Amanda Cahill, with the American Heart Association, in the Zoom presentation.

Highlights from the poll conducted by New Bridges Strategy include the following, according to information from the Montana Kids Vs. Big Tobacco campaign:

  • 72 percent of respondents are concerned about tobacco use, and 40 percent are very concerned;
  • 89 percent support the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in indoor public spaces such as workplaces, public buildings, restaurants and bars;
  • 81 percent support broadening the Clean Indoor Air Act to include e-cigarettes; 76 percent of smokers support doing so; 84 percent of city or suburban residents do; and 77 percent of rural residents do;
  • 77 percent don’t want cigar smoking in bars (the 18 percent who do are generally male and younger);
  • 74 percent believe local communities should be able to set and keep standards in place regarding tobacco; and
  • 92 percent of Montana voters support using settlement money from the tobacco industry to combat underage smoking; 75 percent think the money should be used solely to fight problems with tobacco, not other substances.

Kristin Page-Nei, with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the tobacco settlement fund was specifically designed to use money to stop tobacco use and prevent related diseases, and a proposal supported by Gov. Greg Gianforte would spend money on preventing other substance use, for which she said there are other funding sources.

Statewide Tobacco Survey March 2021

On Wednesday, Senate Bill 398 was heard in the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee. The bill would revise laws relating to “alternative nicotine products, vapor products, and tobacco,” and limit local governments from prohibiting the sale of vapor products.

House Bill 285 to create cigar bars has been tabled in committee. House Bill 137 also was tabled. The bill also was designed to limit the power of local governments and the state health department from restricting “alternative nicotine products or vapor products,” and it would have made vaping products legally “separate and distinct from tobacco products.”

Lori Weigel, principal with New Bridge Strategy, said the poll was conducted via cellphone and over land lines, with 38 percent of respondents living in rural areas, 30 percent in small towns, and 31 percent in cities or just outside a city. The respondents represented the political and partisan identification of Montana voters as she’s seen in previous research.

New Bridge Strategy is based in Colorado, and the firm polls on a variety of issues including conservation and land use in the West. Weigel has roots in Republican politics and formerly served as pollster for Denver’s News 4 and the Rocky Mountain News, according to New Bridge Strategy’s website.

UPATED Tobacco Poll news release 3-31-21

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.