Originally created 03/31/97

Tobacco makers only industry with negatives in Harris Poll



NEW YORK (AP) - Numerous industries have earned the confidence of consumers despite low levels of faith in public and private sector leaders, but only one industry in a recent Harris poll has negative numbers: the tobacco industry.

Fully 80 percent of those interviewed by telephone Feb. 19-23 said that medical doctors, telephone companies and computer companies do a good job of serving customers, Louis Harris and Associates said in a report for release Monday.

Seventy percent to 79 percent said the same about pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, banks and car manufacturers.

Only one industry on the list, the tobacco industry, had negative marks "and this surely reflects, not such how well it provides tobacco products to smokers, but public hostility" because the industry sells tobacco, the pollster said.

The industry received the negative numbers a month before the Liggett Group, the makers of Chesterfields, settled 22 state lawsuits on March 20 by admitting that smoking is addictive.

The survey also compared itself with one taken in 1976 that had seven of the industries listed in the 1997 survey. At the bottom both times - with tobacco companies not included in the 1976 survey - were oil companies.

Meanwhile, telephone companies moved to number one, from number two, while bumping banks to number 4, and pharmaceutical and drug companies moved to number two in 1997 from number five. Hospitals remained at number three.