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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 20, 1998
                             OF THE SENATE

May 20, 1998

Dear Mr. Leader:

I applaud the Senate for taking up comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to dramatically reduce teen smoking. Every day, 3000 teenagers start smoking regularly, and 1000 will die prematurely of smoking-related diseases as a result. I urge the Senate to move swiftly to pass comprehensive legislation that could save those children's lives.

Last September, and in my budget plan, I set forth five principles for comprehensive tobacco legislation:

     Raising the price of cigarettes by $1.10 a pack over 5 years
     with additional surcharges on companies that continue to sell 
     to kids;

     Affirming the FDA's full authority to regulate tobacco products;

     Getting companies out of the business of marketing and selling
     tobacco to minors;

     Promoting public health research and public health goals; and

     Protecting our tobacco farmers and their communities.

     I have made protecting tobacco farmers and farming communities a 

top priority for this legislation, and I believe Senator Ford's LEAF Act fully meets this standard. I am deeply troubled by the Senate Leadership's recent attempt to undermine protection for tobacco farmers and their communities. I urge the Senate to work through this impasse and ensure that small, family farmers are protected.

If that issue can be resolved to my satisfaction, the bill before the Senate, as amended by Senator McCain's Manager's Amendment, is a good, strong bill that will make a real dent in teen smoking. Congress should pass it without delay.

I applaud Senator McCain and others in both parties who have worked hard to strengthen this legislation. I am particularly pleased that the bill contains significant improvements which will help reduce youth smoking and protect the public health:

     Tough industry-wide and company-specific lookback
     surcharges that will finally make reducing youth smoking the
     tobacco companies' bottom line;

     Protection for all Americans from the health hazards of
     secondhand smoke;

     No antitrust exemption for the tobacco industry;

     Strong licensing and anti-smuggling provisions to prevent
     the emergence of contraband markets and to prosecute violators;

     A dedicated fund to provide for a substantial increase in
     health research funding, a demonstration to test promising new
     cancer treatments, a nationwide counteradvertising campaign to
     reduce youth smoking, effective state and local programs in
     tobacco education, prevention, and cessation, law enforcement
     efforts to prevent smuggling and crackdown on retailers who sell
     tobacco products to children, assistance for tobacco farmers and
     their communities, and funds for the states to make additional
     efforts to promote public health and protect children; and

     The elimination of immunity for parent companies of tobacco
     manufacturers, an increase in the cap on legal damages to $8
     billion per year, and changes to ensure that the cap will be
     available only to tobacco companies that change the way they do
     business, by agreeing to accept sweeping restrictions on
     advertising, continue making annual payments and lookback
     surcharges even if those provisions are struck down, make
     substantial progress toward meeting the youth smoking reduction
     targets, prevent their top management from taking part in any
     scheme to promote smuggling, and abide by the terms of the
     legislation rather than challenging it in court.  Because the
     First Amendment limits what we can do to stop the tobacco
     companies' harmful advertising practices -- which lure so many
     young people to start smoking -- we can do far more to achieve
     our goal of reducing youth smoking if the companies cooperate
     instead of tying us up in court for decades.  If a cap that
     doesn't prevent anybody from suing the companies and getting
     whatever damages a jury awards will get tobacco companies to 
     stop marketing cigarettes to kids, it is well worth it for the
     American people.  I, therefore, oppose the Gregg Amendment to 
     strike the liability cap.

     I strongly support these improvements, and I urge the Senate to 

pass this legislation without delay.



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