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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 17, 1997

President Clinton's Plan for Comprehensive Tobacco Legislation to Protect America's Children

September 17, 1997

Today, President Clinton challenged Congress to pass sweeping tobacco legislation to significantly reduce teen tobacco use. The President announced that he will invite Congressional leaders to the White House in the coming weeks to launch a bipartisan effort to enact federal tobacco legislation. That legislation will build on the extraordinary efforts of the nation's attorneys general, who helped create an historic opportunity for progress in reducing smoking, especially by youth.

In August 1996, the Clinton Administration announced a landmark rule by the Food and Drug Administration to protect children from the harm caused by tobacco products. This rule was largely upheld by a federal judge in North Carolina earlier this year. Those victories for the public health, along with the aggressive efforts of the attorneys general and leaders of the public health community, drove tobacco companies to the bargaining table and extracted concessions that would have been unimaginable just a short time ago.

Since a proposed national settlement was announced June 20, the Administration -- led by Vice President Gore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and Domestic Policy Advisor Bruce Reed -- has been working with the public health community, the attorneys general, members of Congress, tobacco farmers, and others to develop a comprehensive tobacco policy.

Today, the President announced five key elements that must be at the heart of any national tobacco legislation:

  1. A Comprehensive Plan to Reduce Teen Smoking, Including Tough Penalties If Targets Are Not Met. Every day, 3,000 young people start smoking regularly, and 1,000 of them will die early as a result. The central goal of tobacco legislation must be a comprehensive, nationwide effort to reduce teen smoking.

The Administration is calling for:

One of the surest ways to reduce youth smoking is to increase the price of cigarettes. By some estimates, a 10% increase in cigarette prices will lead to a 7% drop in youth smoking. Today, the President called for a combination of industry payments and penalties to increase the price of cigarettes by up to $1.50 a pack over the next decade as necessary to meet the youth smoking reduction targets.