Farm Bureau survey shows opposition to anti-smoking laws

The Columbus Dispatch – January 27, 1988

Government legislation restricting smoking would discriminate against some workers, encourage lawsuits and be hard to enforce, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Ohio Farm Bureau.

In the study, conducted by Saperstein Associates Inc. in Columbus and released yesterday, 56 percent of the participants said they oppose laws that would promote mandatory restrictions against smoking in the work place.

The results ”show that Ohio consumers don’t want local, state or federal governments mandating where they can use tobacco. They think they can better handle the situation alone,” said C. William Swank, Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president.

Forty-nine percent of the employed respondents have a smoking policy where they work, and 88 percent of them said compliance is not a problem.

The members wanted the survey because there are about 5,000 tobacco farms in the southern part of the state, Swank said. Tobacco is the fifth-largest cash crop in Ohio, worth about $23 million in 1986.

”We plan to share the information with members throughout the state, the state administration, the Ohio General Assembly and Congress,” Swank said. Many of the group’s members in the northern part of the state are unfamiliar with the importance of tobacco to southern Ohio, he said.

Although the study’s costs were offset by a grant from cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris Cos. in New York, Swank defended the survey as an unbiased representation of Ohioans’ views.

In addition to tobacco-related questions, the Farm Bureau telephone survey covered other agricultural issues. For example, 72 percent of the 714 registered voters polled said they support government aid through price supports, loans or grants for farmers.

Fifty-two percent think farmers are financially worse off than most Americans.

Survey participants think the No. 1 problems in Ohio are unemployment, 26 percent; education quality and funding, 16 percent; and the level of taxes, 8 percent.

Survey participants live in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties and were about equally divided among urban, suburban and rural residents. Of the sample, 5 percent were involved in the sale of tobacco products and 1 percent were growers. Nineteen percent were regular smokers, 8 percent occasional smokers, 32 percent former smokers and 41 percent non-smokers.

The survey was conducted in October and November.