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May 20, 1998

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For years, the tobacco companies have looked upon these children and seen the replacement smokers of the 21st Century. But I see more than 1,400 unique children who cannot be replaced. I see the scientists and artists; the teachers and Olympic champions; the engineers and leaders of the 21st Century. Everyone of us has the responsibility to make sure these and all children across America have the opportunity to live out their dreams and fulfill their greatest, God-given potential. That is why me must pass this bill.

- President Bill Clinton
May 20, 1998

Today, President Clinton is joined by 1,400 children from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to announce his support for comprehensive legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to reduce teen smoking.

Teen Smoking is A Rapidly Growing Health Crisis. Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 36 percent of all high school students smoke, and that teen smoking rates have risen dramatically, by 32 percent from 1991 to 1997. Every day, 3,000 children start smoking, and 1,000 of those children will die earlier in life because of it.

A Strategic Plan For Reducing Youth Smoking. The President has stated that any tobacco legislation must meet 5 objectives: 1) a reduction in youth smoking by raising the price of cigarettes by up to $1.10 over 5 years, with additional surcharges on companies that continue to sell to kids; 2) full authority for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products; 3) changes in the way the tobacco industry does business, including an end to marketing and promotion to kids; 4) 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 5) protection for tobacco farmers and their communities.

The McCain Manager's Amendment Meets the President's Principles. The McCain bill has been amended to include provisions the President supports, including:

  • Tough industry-wide and company-specific surcharges targeted at reducing youth smoking;
  • Protection for all Americans from the secondhand smoke in public buildings;
  • No antitrust exemption for the tobacco industry;
  • Strong licensing and anti-smuggling provisions to prevent black markets and ensure prosecution of violators;
  • A trust fund committed to provide increases in health research funding into the 21st Century; and
  • An $8 billion-a-year cap on legal damages which will only be made available to companies who agree to change the way they do business.

Congress Should Pass The McCain Manager's Amendment. President Clinton has worked with Congressional leaders of both parties to craft tough legislation that will help reduce teen smoking, protect non-smokers from the dangers of second hand smoke, continue to educate people on the dangers of smoking, and help current smokers quit. Congress needs to pass this legislation for the health and safety of future generations.

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