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Office of the President

For Immediate Release July 17, 1998
                     MORE ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC
                             July 17, 1998

Today, President Clinton directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate a public health review of tobacco industry documents and develop a plan to make the documents more accessible to researchers and the public at large. As a first step toward greater public access, the President announced that the Department of Justice will file a brief in the trial court supporting the State of Minnesota's motion to unseal an industry-created index to the documents. Because they provide new information about what kinds of advertising appeal to children, these documents help public health experts design counter-advertising campaigns and other strategies to protect children. These documents also assist scientists in understanding more about the addictive nature of nicotine, the health consequences of tobacco use, and the effects of certain tobacco product designs and ingredients. With today's actions, the President is moving forward to protect America's children from tobacco even as he continues to fight to enact comprehensive tobacco legislation this year.

Most Tobacco Documents are Not Readily Accessible For decades, the American tobacco industry sought to hide from the American people critically important information about the health hazards of tobacco and the industry's efforts to induce children to smoke. Recently, court cases and congressional subpoenas have forced the tobacco companies to make many of their documents public. Most of these documents, however, still are not readily accessible. Public health leaders have found and highlighted important documents, but there is no comprehensive public index to help researchers locate particular documents or information. Only a small percentage of these documents are posted on the Internet, and it is difficult to search through them in their current format.

A Plan for Public Access and Public Health Today, the President directed the Secretary of HHS to take steps to make these tobacco documents more accessible to the public by creating a plan that would:

        Propose a method for coordinating review of the documents and
        making available an easily searchable index and/or digest of 
        the reviewed documents;
        Propose a plan to disseminate widely the index and/or digest as
        well as the documents themselves, including expanded use of the
        Internet; and
        Provide a strategy for coordinating a broad public and private
        review and analysis of the documents to gain critical public 
        health information.  Issues to be considered as part of this 
        analysis include: nicotine addiction and pharmacology, 
        biomedical research, including ingredient safety; product 
        design; and youth marketing strategies.

A Legal Brief to Unseal the Key Industry-Prepared Index The President also announced that the Department of Justice will file an amicus brief in trial court in support of the State of Minnesota's motion to unseal a comprehensive index to industry documents created by the industry for use in litigation (known as the "4-A Index"). The tobacco industry has fought to prevent the release of this index. It is the industry's road map to its own documents, and it would improve significantly the ability of public health experts, scientists, state and federal officials, and the public to search industry documents and gain important public health information.