THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Jersey City, New Jersey)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN TELEPHONE CONFERENCE WITH KICK BUTTS DAY STUDENT PARTICIPANTS
Woodbridge High School
Woodbridge, New Jersey
1:25 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: (In progress*) -- And we have proposed an FDA regulation to crack down on -- (inaudible). We've proposed ways to make it harder for children and for teenagers to buy cigarettes by reducing their access to vending machines and free samples. But we also need people who are -- (inaudible) --to be more rigorous. We just spoke to three young people here who said they had no trouble at all buying cigarettes. Two were 16 and one was 13, and they said the overall success rate was something like 74 percent for the students in the middle and high schools who -- (inaudible) -- to buy cigarettes. So we're going to have to work on that.
I just want to say that I believe that this is a problem we can solve if we work together, if we see young people like these young people here working with their parents, their schools, their communities to fight against the lure and the availability of smoking for teenagers. And we're going to do what we can at the national level to do our part as well.
Mark Green, I want to especially thank you for your role in making today happen and for being a critical national leader on this issue; for your successful campaign to ban cigarette machines in New York City in 1990; to your leadership in organizing this national effort. You've really been a pioneer and we're very grateful to you.
And I thought you might like to give a brief overview of this day. Can you hear me, Mark? We may have lost him.
MR. GREEN: -- (in progress) -- proposal to keep cigarettes from children. What do you think, kids? (Applause.)
It doesn't get better than that. Mr. President, Kick Butts Day is basically kids working with other kids to talk back and fight back against the tobacco merchants. It's really a David and Goliath story. The Goliaths, of course, are the tobacco companies who spend $6 billion a year in advertising and promotion to try to recruit new smokers from the minor leagues. And the David are all of the targeted children, here in Newark and around the country, with their slave shops being surveys and poster contests and counter ads.
So this is the first annual -- I'm an optimist, Mr. President -- this is the first annual Kick Butts Day in a dozen cities. It's kind of a kids version of the Great American Smoke-outs. There, adults try to stop. With Kick Butts Day, kids know never to start.
And the idea, if I could, came out of two experiences I had six years ago as the city's Consumer Affairs Commissioner. The first is I was taking my son, Jonah, to kindergarten class; we drove by a billboard. And unprompted, he said, Daddy, why do some people want other people to smoke and buy? I was startled and said, well, they say it's a legal product and you're free to smoke or not. And he said, oh, they make money from death?
Second, a couple weeks later, I spoke on the same day in Queens, this borough, to a 30 six-year-olds in the morning and a separate group of 30 seniors in the evening. I asked each, do you know what the Joe Camel cartoon figure is? Only two of the senior citizens, Mr. President, could identify Joe Camel. But all but two of the students could identify Joe Camel.
And so seeing how that ad pitched particularly and successfully to children, I'm so proud that we today are educating children about the dangers, as you said, rather than the lures of this lifelong, if not life-ending habit.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mark. And I want to say again how much I appreciate the work you have been doing. You have been out there on this issue a long time, and I think the country is coming around. And I think the young people like those who have joined me here today are going to play a critical role in helping us to defeat this problem.
I would like to ask Governor Chiles of Florida, if he is on the phone, to say a few words. He has had a terrific fight in Florida in his efforts to protect children from the dangers of smoking, and I honor him for his courage and his determination not to back down in the face of intense pressure.
GOVERNOR CHILES: Mr. President, we're very happy to be here today. I'm at Pineview Grammar School in Tallahassee. I'm here with a great deal of our students. They're all drug free, and they are having a great time today. And we've got some PRIDE students that are here from four of our Tallahassee high schools, and Taylor County PRIDE is here as well. (Applause.) And they're giving some entertainment and lessons to our kids. We're just delighted to be on the line with you and to help you celebrate Kick Butts Day.
I want to tell you, Mr. President, the legislature has just adjourned in Florida; they did not override my veto, so our suit against tobacco companies is still going on. We're all determined here -- we're going to kill Joe Camel, that's what we're going to do. (Applause.)
And we're just -- we're very happy to get a chance to join with you in this celebration of this day. I know you've got a number of other cities participating in the conference call, in Madison and Milwaukee and in Cleveland. And I want to call on Lamont Tinker (phonetic), a fifth-grader now, to say a word to you, Mr. President.
LAMONT: Well, President Clinton, first I learned that smoking is extremely harmful to the body. I thought smoking was just harmful to the lungs. Smoking weakens the body and stops it from working. I think the Kick Butts Campaign is an excellent way to stop people from smoking, and I thank you for making it nationwide so people can see the dangers of smoking. I give the Kick Butts Campaign a thumbs-up. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
GOVERNOR CHILES: Mr. President, Lamont and myself and all of the kids at Pine View and all of our PRIDE young people are just delighted to have a chance to join with you today.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor. And I want to thank that young student. He did a terrific job.
I want to say again to the young people who are listening on this call, you can very often have a lot more influence on your peers than the rest of us can. And I'll keep working in Washington to do what we should be doing at the national level, but you have to do your part in making sure that in your community people don't sell cigarettes to minors; that we don't have an excessive exposure to advertising directed at young people. And you can do it. You can have an impact on your classmates not to start smoking, and we can turn this around.
So if we all work together, we'll be successful. And again, I want to thank you all for being a part of this Kick Butts Day and for being a part of a commitment to give your generation a healthy and strong future. God bless you all, and thank you very much. (Applause.)
Governor Romer, are you on the phone?
GOVERNOR ROMER: Yes, I am.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to say a word about your efforts in Colorado?
GOVERNOR ROMER: Yes, I would. In Colorado, I'm speaking to you from the Denver Career Education Center, Mr. President, where I'm joined by about 70 middle school students representing six different Denver area schools. They have done some extensive research here on how the tobacco industry targets kids in its advertising, and they're really serious about this Kick Butts Day.
Also, out here in the West, at Santa Ana, California, we're joined in Santa Ana by about 200 students at one of their local high schools. The students there are participating in a series of activities and talking with community professionals about the problems of tobacco use in that area.
In Houston, Texas, we are joined by students in Houston who have initiated a campaign that has involved the Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, and other local officials to promote awareness about the harmful side-effects of smoking. I understand those students have put together a series of activities, speakers, exhibits -- all designed to demonstrate the harmful aspects of tobacco use.
So, you see, we've got a lot going on out here. I have with me a really tremendous student, Jenna Otee (phonetic), who is 13 years old from Morey Middle School. I'd like to have her make a comment. Jenna?
JENNA: I was joined by about 10 other students from my school, and we all went to a grocery store and we did the Kick Butts survey. While we were in the grocery store, we found tobacco snuff in the ice cream aisle, we found tobacco products sold in a vending machine. In many magazines that we looked, we found many ads involving young men and women looking cool while they smoked. At a 7-11 we found an aisle where candy was and we found tobacco also.
GOVERNOR ROMER: Mr. President, thank you. I just wanted to give you a report from the West. I really appreciate your leadership in this effort.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And I want to thank Jenna and the other students for the work they did on the survey, and for their reports.
Keep after it. We'll keep working and we'll keep moving forward. I feel very good about this. The degree of the intensity that so many young people in America feel about this issue is the most hopeful thing about it, and we just all need to stay in there with them and keep working. We can whip this thing.
Thank you all very much, in all the 11 cities on the phone, thank you very, very much.
END 1:35 P.M. EDT