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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 12, 1995
                             TO THE NATION     
                            The Oval Office    

10:06 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I directed the Food and Drug Administration to propose stiff restrictions on the advertising, marketing, and sales of cigarettes to children, after a 14-month FDA study, an exhaustive study which found tobacco addictive, harmful and readily available to young Americans. I did so because sometimes we must act sternly and boldly to fulfill our most fundamental moral obligation -- our duty as adults to ensure that our children grow up healthy and strong.

The grim fact is that every single day in America 3,000 new teenagers light up for the first time. Most are destined to become addicted, and a thousand of them will die before their time from diseases caused by tobacco.

Teenagers don't just "happen" to smoke. They're the victims of billions of dollars of marketing and promotional campaigns designed by top psychologists and advertising experts. These campaigns have one inevitable consequence -- to start children on a lifetime habit of addiction to tobacco. And if you don't start smoking as a teen, chances are very good you'll never start at all. Somebody has to stop this. That's why I decided to act.

The way the cigarette companies reach children is especially effective. They sponsor auto races or tennis matches. The subtle message is that smoking can't be that bad for you if it's so intimately involved with sports. Well, our plan stops companies from sponsoring events in cigarette-brand names.

Stores sell cigarettes in kiddy packs of handful of cigarettes, or even sometimes, just one cigarette, so teenager with very little money can buy smokes out of their pocket change. My plan bans that, too. Billboards and ads in teen magazines show rugged men and glamorous women lighting up, and blissful couples sharing their cigarettes. The message is, smoking is sexy; it will make you more attractive; it will make you happier. My plan will ban those manipulative visual images, too.

Let's be clear: cigarettes are a legal product, but cigarettes sales to minors are illegal in all 50 states. But lots of children smoke in all 50 states, getting these small packs or getting the cigarettes out of vending machines, or sometimes just buying them across the counter. And the advertising has a lot to do with it.

So let's end the hypocrisy of pretending that while sales to teens are illegal, marketing to teens is legal. Let's stop pretending that a cartoon camel in a funny costume is trying to sell to adults, not children.

Cigarette companies say they want to reduce teen smoking. But their lawyers rush to the courthouse to seek an order blocking our actions. Well, that's their right, but it is my duty to safeguard the health and the safety of our children. And I won't back down.

Now I'd like to turn the microphone over to a brave man, Victor Crawford. For years Mr. Crawford was a lobbyist for the top tobacco companies. He smoked, and tragically, he's now fighting his own battle against cancer. I think his comments on the tactics of tobacco advertising may be especially helpful.

Mr. Crawford.

MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, President Clinton, for giving me this chance to talk to the young people of America. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the wonderful things you're doing to protect them from smoking. This was an issue you could have easily avoided, but instead you did the right thing and took the leadership position.

Kids, cigarettes are bad for you, and they're killers. I know. I used to work for the industry that makes them. I was part of a well-organized machine that depends on young people like you believing that cigarettes are okay. Some of the smartest people in America work at just one thing -- figuring out how to get you to smoke. As tobacco kills off people like me, they need kids like you to replace me.

As the President has described already, anything goes -- any marketing gimmick, any trick to make you want to smoke. They talk about peer pressure; how do you think that peer pressure starts? We did it through our advertising.

For several years I protected the cigarette industry from anybody who wanted to restrict smoking. I fooled a lot of people; and, kids, I fooled myself, too. I smoked heavily and I started when I was 13 years old. And now in my throat and in my lungs where the smoke used to be there's a cancer that I know is killing me.

It's too late for me, but it's not too late for you. Use your brain. Don't let anybody fool you. Don't smoke.

And, Mr. President, on behalf of millions of other people like me, I thank you very much for the steps you're taking to stop cigarette companies from fooling the people into smoking and being a true leader that this country needs. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Crawford, thank you. Your courage in speaking out has inspired me, and it will help all of us to save the lives of countless young people in the future. Better than almost anyone in America, you know the powerful forces that are trying to preserve the status quo. But no one -- no one -- should risk our children's future for their own personal gain. And your personal struggle, Mr. Crawford, and that of millions of other Americans who suffer from smoking's consequences, show why we must act, and act now, for our children, our families, and our American family.

Thanks for listening.

END 10:11 A.M. EDT