THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||June 22, 1998|
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Outside The Oval Office
10:18 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm about to leave forVice President Gore's Family Reunion Conference in Nashville,something that he and Mrs. Gore have done now for many years, todiscuss central concerns of America's families. And since we havebeen here in the White House, we have often used the conference as aspringboard for new initiatives to strengthen our families and moveour country forward.
Today we're going to be talking about health concerns ofAmerican families. Of course, one of the biggest health concerns isyouth smoking, something we've been discussing a lot around herelately. We all now know that 3,000 young people start smoking everyday, and that 1,000 will die earlier because of it, even though it'sillegal in every state to sell cigarettes to young people.
That is why three years ago, through the Food and DrugAdministration, my administration began to act to end the practice oftobacco companies marketing cigarettes to children, and why for thepast year we've been working so hard to forge an honorable andbipartisan compromise to protect our children from the dangers oftobacco.
A majority of the Senate now stands ready to join us,but last week the Republican leadership placed partisan politics andtobacco companies above our families. Their vote was not justpro-tobacco lobby, it was anti-family. The bipartisan bill theyblocked would not only protect families from tobacco advertisingaimed at children; it would protect children from drugs, give low andmiddle income families a tax cut by redressing the marriage penalty,and make substantial new investments in medical research, especiallyin cancer research.
The congressional leadership seems willing to walk awayfrom its obligation to our children, but this issue is too importantto walk away. We'll continue to move forward on every possible frontto protect children.
By the end of the year, the FDA's operation to enforceits ban on tobacco sales to minors will be active in nearly everystate in America. And while we wait for Congress to heed the call ofAmerica's families, I'm instructing the Department of Health andHuman Services to produce the first-ever annual survey on the brandsof cigarettes teenagers smoke, and which companies are mostresponsible for the problem. Parents, quite simply, have a right toknow. Public health officials can also use this information toreduce youth smoking.
The tobacco companies' automatic and angry dismissal ofthis new survey shows their continued disregard for their children'shealth and parents' concerns. We have a right to know. For yearsand years and years, they had information that proved tobacco wasaddictive and that demonstrated they were marketing to children --and they didn't think we had a right to know that either. I believethis is very helpful information, and we'll do our best to get good,accurate, honest data.
Once this information becomes public, companies willthen no longer be able to evade accountability, and neither willCongress. From now on the new data will help to hold tobaccocompanies accountable for targeting children.
Again, I urge Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensivelegislation rather than a watered-down bill written by the tobaccolobby. The leadership must put families' interests above bigtobacco's interests. America's children deserve that, and I'llcontinue to do everything I can to ensure that they get it.
Q Isn't it a lost cause, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q Mr. President, absent any penalties, whatconfidence do you have that just finger-pointing at the tobaccocompanies will have any impact on teen smoking?
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you have an annual survey--first of all, I think it will be easier to get penalties. But ifyou have an annual survey that shows a substantial differential inbrand preference among young people, then it will clearly demonstratethat there is something in the nature of the advertising that hassomething to do with this.
I mean, we basically know that the three elementsinvolved here are advertising and access and then the generalculture, so I believe that -- I think that advertising is veryimportant. If there is no advertising -- excuse me, and price, thefourth thing is price. And so if advertising can be isolated and wecan see that in brand preference, I think it will help us quite a lotto forge some good policies.
But you've got to understand, I still think we can getlegislation, and I'm not at all ready to give up on it. I'm going tokeep fighting for it. A majority wants it. The leadership of theRepublican Party in Congress does not want it -- desperately doesn'twant it. And the tobacco companies don't want it. But the Americanpeople do.
And all of the evidence that I've seen shows that themore people know about what's in the bill, as opposed to their $40million characterization of it, the more their support goes up. Sowe need to keep fighting and we intend to continue to do that.