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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 25, 2000
                             March 25, 2000

In his radio address today, President Clinton will call on Congress to enact legislation protecting our children from the dangers of tobacco and he will also highlight his broad strategy to reduce youth smoking. Earlier this week the Supreme Court ruled that the FDA must get explicit authorization from Congress to regulate tobacco products. Fortunately, there is bipartisan support for legislation to provide that authority, and to restrict tobacco advertising aimed at children and curb tobacco sales to minors. The President today will urge Congress to pass this legislation. He will emphasize that his Administration will fight on all fronts to bring down youth smoking. In particular, he will tout his proposals to increase cigarette prices, impose penalties on tobacco companies if youth smoking is not cut, and make smoking cessation drug treatments more widely available. He will also call on Congress not to undermine federal litigation against the tobacco industry, and will challenge states to use the funds they have collected from tobacco settlements for anti-smoking efforts. More than 3,000 children under 18 become regular smokers each day, and 1,000 will have their lives cut short as a result. The President will remind Americans that by working across party lines, we can save lives.

CALLING ON CONGRESS TO ENACT PROTECTIONS FOR OUR CHILDREN. Both the President and Vice President have worked hard since taking office to protect our nation's children from the dangers of tobacco. Five years ago, the Food and Drug Administration put forward an important proposal to eliminate advertising aimed at children and curb minors' access to tobacco products. Although the Supreme Court ruled this week that FDA lacks the legislative authority to regulate tobacco, the Court did affirm the Administration's view that tobacco use by children "poses perhaps the single most significant threat to public health in the United States." Even some in the tobacco industry, after fighting the FDA rule in court, now say they support regulation of tobacco. So today the President will make clear that it is now up to Congress to enact the protections in the original FDA rule. These protections have strong bipartisan support -- in 1998, 57 Senators from both parties supported a bill with provisions comparable to the FDA regulation -- and the President will urge Congress to pass such legislation.

FIGHTING ON ALL FRONTS TO CUT YOUTH SMOKING. President Clinton today will also emphasize that his Administration will continue to work on many fronts to reduce youth smoking. In particular, he will highlight his budget proposals to increase the excise tax on cigarettes by an additional 25 cents a pack, and to charge the tobacco industry a $3,000 assessment for every underage smoker in 2004 if youth smoking is not cut in half. The President's budget also includes an important initiative to ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries have access to drug treatments to help quit smoking. Finally, the Justice Department has begun litigation to recover federal tobacco-related health costs from tobacco manufacturers. The President will urge the Congress to support this effort -- and not undermine it, as some have threatened -- so that tobacco companies finally answer to the taxpayers in court for their actions.

CHALLENGING STATES TO DELIVER ON THEIR PROMISE TO REDUCE TOBACCO USE. When the states settled their lawsuits against the tobacco companies in 1998 for a total of $246 billion, state officials promised that the settlement would be just the first step in their efforts to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children. But far too many states have failed to live up to that promise. The President today will challenge states to spend their tobacco settlement proceeds on efforts to combat youth smoking. He will also point out that in some states, such efforts have already shown powerful results. For instance, as a result of an aggressive tobacco control program, smoking rates among Florida middle school students dropped from 18.5 percent in 1998 to 8.6 percent in 2000, a 54 percent decline. In Oregon, smoking declined by 32 percent among 8th graders and by 17 percent among 11th graders between 1998 and 1999. And in Massachusetts, smoking among high school students fell 15 percent between 1995 and 1999.