Protect Our Children From Tobacco
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Conference By The President
August 10, 1995
The President: Good afternoon. Today I am announcing
broad executive action to protect the young people of the United
States from the awful dangers of tobacco.
Over the years we have learned more and more about the
dangers of addictive substances to our young people. In the '60s and
'70s we came to realize the threat drugs posed to young Americans.
In the '80s we came to grips with the awful problem of drunk driving
among young people. It is time to take a third step to free our
teenagers from addiction and dependency.
Adults are capable of making their own decisions about
whether to smoke. But we all know that children are especially
susceptible to the deadly temptation of tobacco and its skillful
marketing. Today and every day this year, 3,000 young people will
begin to smoke. One thousand of them ultimately will die of cancer,
emphysema, heart disease, and other diseases caused by smoking.
That's more than one million vulnerable young people a year being
hooked on nicotine that ultimately could kill them.
Therefore, by executive authority, I will restrict
sharply the advertising, promotion, distribution and marketing of
cigarettes to teenagers. I do this on the basis of the best
available scientific evidence, the findings of the American Medical
Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart
Association, the American Lung Association, the Centers for Disease
Control. Fourteen months of study by the Food and Drug
Administration confirms what we all know -- cigarettes and smokeless
tobacco are harmful, highly addictive and aggressively marketed to
our young people. The evidence is overwhelming, and the threat is
Our children face a health crisis that is getting worse.
One-third more 8th-graders, and one-quarter more 10th-graders are
smoking today than four years ago. One out of five high school
seniors is a daily smoker. We need to act, and we must act now,
before another generation of Americans is condemned to fight a
difficult and grueling personal battle with an addiction that will
cost millions of them their lives.
Adults make their own decisions about whether or not to
smoke. Relatively few people start to smoke past their teens. Many
adults have quit; many have tried and failed. But we all know that
teenagers are especially susceptible to pressures. Pressure to the
manipulation of mass media advertising, the pressure of the seduction
of skilled marketing campaigns aimed at exploiting their insecurities
and uncertainties about life.
When Joe Camel tells young children that smoking is
cool, when billboards tell teens that smoking will lead to true
romance, when Virginia Slims tells adolescents that cigarettes may
make them thin and glamorous, then our children need our wisdom, our
guidance and our experience. We're their parents and it is up to us
to protect them.
So today I am authorizing the Food and Drug
Administration to initiate a broad series of steps all designed to
stop sales and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to
children. As a result, the following steps will be taken.
First, young people will have to prove their age with an
I.D. card to buy cigarettes. Second, cigarette vending machines
which circumvent any ban on sales to kids will be prohibited. Third,
schools and playgrounds will be free of tobacco advertising on
billboards in their neighborhoods. Fourth, images such as Joe Camel
will not appear on billboards or in ads in publications that reach
substantial numbers of children and teens. Fifth, teens won't be
targeted by any marketing gimmicks, ranging from single cigarette
sales to T-shirts, gym bags and sponsorship of sporting events. And,
finally, the tobacco industry must fund and implement an annual
$150-million campaign aimed at stopping teens from smoking through
Now, these are all common-sense steps. They don't ban
smoking; they don't bar advertising. We do not, in other words, seek
to address activities that seek to sell cigarettes only to adults.
We are stepping in to protect those who need our help, our vulnerable
young people. And the evidence of increasing smoking in the last few
years is plain and compelling.
Now, nobody much likes government regulation. And I
would prefer it if we could have done this in some other way. The
only other way I can think of is if Congress were to write these
restrictions into law. They could do that. And if they do, this
rule could become unnecessary. But it is wrong to believe that we
can take a voluntary approach to this problem. And absent
congressional action, and in the presence of a massive marketing and
lobbying campaign by cigarette companies aimed at our children,
clearly, I have no alternative but to do everything I can to bring
this assault to a halt.
The issue has touched all of us in personal ways. We
all know friends or family members whose lives were shortened because
of their involvement with tobacco. The Vice President's sister, a
heavy smoker who started as a teen, died of lung cancer. It is that
kind of pain that I seek to spare other families and young children.
Less smoking means less cancer, less illness, longer lives -- a
stronger America. Acting together we can make a difference. With
this concerted plan targeted at those practices that especially prey
upon our children, we can save lives, and we will.
To those who produce and market cigarettes, I say today,
take responsibility for your actions. Sell your products only to
adults. Draw the line on children. Show by your deeds as well as
you words that you recognize that it is wrong as well as illegal to
hook one million children a year on tobacco.
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