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June 15, 1998

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I urge the Senate to act now. Every day you delay plays into the hands of the tobacco industry, which desperately wants to kill this bill. Every day you delay allows the tobacco companies to lure another 3,000 children to start smoking. The days of delay must come to an end. Pass the McCain bill this week. The American people expect you to get the job done right now.

President Bill Clinton
June 15, 1998

Today, President Clinton welcomes the Presidential Scholars to the White House and calls on the Congress to pass comprehensive tobacco legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to reduce teen smoking.

Teen Smoking Is A Rapidly Growing Health Crisis. It has been nearly one year since the Congress took up the issue of comprehensive tobacco legislation. In that time, over one million children -- 3,000 a day -- have become regular smokers, and one third of those children will die prematurely as a result. 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.

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 Bill Meets The President's Principles. The McCain bill contains the strongest anti-youth smoking provisions in our history:

  • Raising the price of cigarettes by $1.10 over the next five years --the single most important step we can take to reduce youth smoking.

  • Imposing tough lookback surcharges on tobacco companies if youth smoking does not decline by 67% over the next decade.

  • Reaffirming FDA's full authority over tobacco products.

  • Launching major nationwide efforts to reduce youth smoking, including a nationwide counteradvertising campaign to warn young people not to smoke, state and local tobacco education and prevention programs, and tough enforcement measures to stop retailers from selling cigarettes to minors.

  • Taking other important steps to protect against the dangers of smoking, including expanded warning labels on cigarettes, mandatory disclosure of additives and cigarette ingredients, a nationwide ban on smoking in public buildings, and substantial funding for smoking cessation programs.

  • Funding a major increase in health research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, including clinical trials for cancer patients.

Congress Should Pass The McCain Bill. The President worked to secure several improvementsto the tobacco legislation, including stronger lookback surcharges, stronger environmental tobacco smoke protections, elimination of the antitrust exemption and of liability protection for parent companies, and substantial funding for public health and research as well as for states and tobacco farmers. Congress must act on this important legislation which helps save the lives of children and protects them from the devastating effects of tobacco use.

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