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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 21, 1998
         New Statistics on Teen Smoking Provide More Evidence
       Why the Senate Should Pass the McCain Tobacco Legislation

                               May 21, 1998

New statistics released today by the Centers for Disease Control confirm that nicotine hooks American children and creates an addiction that is extremely difficult to break. The data show:

Teenagers find it difficult to quit smoking -- 86 percent of teens who smoke daily and try to quit are unsuccessful.

Teenagers underestimate the addictiveness of nicotine -- 75 percent of daily smokers who expect to quit are still smoking five years later.

Casual smokers become hooked -- 42 percent of young people who smoke as few as three cigarettes per month go on to become regular smokers.

Currently, 36.4 percent of high school students smoke.

Every day, 3000 young people become regular smokers in this country, and 1000 will die prematurely as a result. Today's report published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report provides just one more reason why the Senate needs to pass the McCain legislation quickly in order to reduce youth smoking dramatically in this country. Yesterday, the President said he believes the McCain bill is a good, strong bill that would make a real dent in teen smoking, and he urged Congress to pass it without delay. In particular, he praised the significant improvements made to the new bill, including:

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;

A dedicated fund to provide for a substantial increase in health research funding; a demonstration program 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 crack down on retailers who sell tobacco products to children; assistance for tobacco farmers and their communities; and funds for states to make additional efforts to promote public health and protect children;

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

No antitrust exemption for the tobacco industry; 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 and agree to accept sweeping restrictions on advertising.