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March 30, 1998

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Monday, March 30, 1998


The Administration is committed to ensuring the health and safety of American families. Today, Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles reaffirmed President Clinton's commitment to protecting our children from the threat of tobacco and emphasized the Administration's commitment to working with the bipartisan leadership in Congress to achieve this goal. Later in the day, Secretary Shalala and Deputy Attorney General Holder joined Representatives Lowey and Canady to emphasize the importance of the pending House legislation setting a nationwide limit for impaired driving at .08 blood alcohol content (BAC).

A Strong Foundation For Future Tobacco Reform. The McCain bill is a strong foundation for furthering efforts to reduce youth tobacco use, but there is still room for significant improvement. The bill will make significant inroads on youth smoking by increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes substantially --by $1.10 within five years. It also gives the FDA the full authority it needs to regulate tobacco products, including youth access and advertising. But we must continue to work with Senator McCain and others to strengthen this bill by imposing stronger penalties on companies that continue to sell cigarettes to our children and ensuring that tobacco revenues are used to promote public health and assist children.

A Strategic Plan For Reducing Youth Tobacco Use. President Clinton's plan for comprehensive tobacco legislation includes five key principles:

  • A comprehensive plan to reduce youth smoking by raising the price of packs of cigarettes by up to $1.50 over ten years through a combination of annual payments and tough penalties on the tobacco industry;
  • Full authority for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products;
  • Changes in the way the tobacco industry does business, including ending marketing and promotion to kids;
  • Progress toward other public health goals, including biomedical and cancer research, a reduction of second hand smoke, promotion of smoking cessation programs, and other urgent priorities; and
  • Protection for tobacco farmers and their communities.
The .08 BAC Standard Saves Lives. President Clinton is pushing for tough new legislation to set the BAC level at .08 for drunk driving. In 1996, of the 41,907 motor vehicle deaths, 41% -- or 17,126 -- were alcohol-related. Nearly 3,000 of these fatalities were young people under age 21. Over 80% of drivers involved in fatal crashes with positive BACs had levels exceeding .08 BAC. Moreover, alcohol-related crashes cost society $45 billion every year, not counting the pain and suffering endured by its victims. When all states lower their BAC limits to .08 BAC, alcohol-related deaths are expected to decrease by 600 each year.

Saving Lives Should Not Be A Partisan Issue. Indeed, the bipartisan work of Congresswoman Lowey and Congressman Canady and Senators Lautenberg and DeWine on the .08 legislation proves that when leaders from both parties come together, we can set aside political differences to save lives and serve America. President Clinton hopes that the majority of the House will join the large bipartisan majority in the Senate, and pass legislation that will make our streets safe, our drivers sober, and our laws more sensible.

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