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April 27, 1998: Stopping the Marketing of Tobacco to All Children

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The facts are as plain as the stakes are high: Three thousand children begin to smoke every day, even though it's illegal in every state, and 1,000 will die earlier because of it. All these children have been targeted by a massive, multimillion-dollar media campaign that preys on their insecurities and their dreams... We are fighting for the lives of our children. We are fighting for the public health, and we are fighting against predatory practices by tobacco companies that have targeted our children.

- President Bill Clinton
April 20, 1998

Today, President Clinton holds a White House event to release a new report from Surgeon General David Satcher on tobacco use among minority populations. The report highlights the rising rate of teen smoking in many ethnic and minority groups and underscores the urgent need for comprehensive legislation to reduce youth smoking.

Documenting Disturbing Trends In Tobacco Use. The Surgeon General's report is the most comprehensive compilation of research to date on the use and health effects of tobacco on minority populations, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians/Alaska Natives. The report shows that:

  • Teen smoking rates are rising in many of these groups. Between 1991 and 1997, smoking rates among African-American high school students rose a startling 80%, and by 34% among Hispanic high school students. The most data on Asian American and American Indian/Alaska Native youth shows that, from 1990 to 1995, cigarette smoking increased by 17% and 26% respectively.
  • Cigarette smoking is a major cause of death and disease for minority and ethnic groups. Lung cancer is the leading cancer death for all four minority groups examined in the study. The increase in youth smoking threatens to reverse recent progress made against lung cancer among these groups.
  • Tobacco advertising targeted at ethnic and minority communities pose serious challenges to efforts to reduce smoking in these populations. Tobacco products are advertised intensively to minority communities; in one city, for example, 62% of billboards in predominantly African American neighborhoods advertised cigarettes, compared with 36% of billboards citywide.
A Strategic Plan For Reducing Youth Tobacco Use. President Clinton is committed to passing comprehensive legislation to stop young Americans from smoking before they start -- an effort that can save one million lives over the next five years. The President's plan for comprehensive tobacco legislation includes five key principles:
  • A comprehensive plan to reduce youth smoking by raising the price of packs of cigarettes by up to $1.50 over ten years through a combination of annual payments and tough penalties on the tobacco industry;
  • Full authority for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products;
  • Changes in the way the tobacco industry does business, including ending marketing and promotion to kids;
  • Progress toward other public health goals, including biomedical and cancer research, a reduction of second-hand smoke, promotion of smoking cessation programs, and other urgent priorities; and
  • Protection for tobacco farmers and their communities.

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