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July 17, 1998

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Let's agree on at least one thing: Children are not the future of our tobacco companies. They are the future of America. We must not let their future, or America's future, go up in smoke.

President Bill Clinton
July 17, 1998

Today, President Clinton signs an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate a public health review of tobacco industry documents and develop a plan to make the documents more accessible to researchers and the public. The President also announces that the Department of Justice will file a brief in support of the State of Minnesota's efforts to make the tobacco industry's own, currently existing, computerized index to these documents available to the public. Through these actions, we can use the industry's darkest secrets to save a new generation of children from this deadly habit.

Most Tobacco Documents Are Not Readily Accessible. For decades, the tobacco companies sought to hide from the public the truth about the dangers of smoking and the industry's own efforts to target children. Documents that have been released show that even as tobacco companies denied the addictive nature of nicotine, they conducted secret research in their labs and devised marketing strategies to addict children to smoking. These documents are the tobacco companies' legacy of shame; however, most of these documents are not readily accessible by the public.

A Presidential Plan For Public Access To Tobacco Industry Documents. President Clinton is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to devise a plan to make these documents more accessible for all Americans. The President is calling on HHS to create a plan that would:

  • Propose a strategy for coordinating the review of tobacco documents and make them available through an easily searchable index and/or digest of the reviewed documents;
  • Devise a plan to widely distribute the index and/or digest as well as the documents themselves, including expanded distribution on the Internet;
  • Provide a strategy for coordinating a broad public and private review and analysis of the documents to gain critical public health information. As part of this analysis, issues to be considered include, an analysis of nicotine addiction and pharmacology, biomedical research, product design, and youth marketing strategies.

Access To Documents Will Lead To Additional Research. By making these documents widely available, the public and private sector will benefit:

  • Public health experts can design more effective anti-smoking strategies by studying marketing plans in these documents;
  • Scientists can look to the documents for findings that can aid their research into nicotine addiction and tobacco-related illnesses;
  • All Americans can understand the role the tobacco industry has played in addicting our children to this deadly habit.

Supporting Efforts To Unseal The Key Tobacco Industry Database. The President will announce that the Department of Justice will file a brief in the trial court of Minnesota in support of the efforts by the State of Minnesota to unseal a comprehensive index to industry documents created by the tobacco companies for use in litigation. This index is the tobacco industries' road map to its own documents, and it will significantly improve the ability of public health experts, scientists, state and federal officials, and the public to gain important public health information. Opening the doors to these documents will help lift the veil of secrecy regarding the tobacco industry's efforts to hook our children on cigarettes.

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