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President Asks Congress to Toughen Tobacco Settlement

President Asks Congress to Toughen Tobacco Settlement

WASHINGTON—Does President Clinton’s stand on the tobacco settlement threaten to scuttle the agreement between the tobacco industry and the attorneys general of 40 states?

The question was much debated in the days following release of the Administration’s critique of the proposed pact and the President’s demands that Congress pass sweeping legislation to tighten control of the industry and ensure a significant reduction in teen tobacco use.

Now a general consensus has emerged that Congress will accept the President’s changes and eventually formulate and pass legislation implementing the proposed 25-year, $368.5 billion pact.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to enact comprehensive tobacco legislation,” Mr. Clinton said in releasing his recommendations to the Congress.

Although Mr. Clinton did not propose specific legislation, deftly leaving that controversial chore to the Congress, he enunciated five key elements that “must be at the heart of any national tobacco legislation.” With the power of the presidential veto behind them, the five points represent more than mere suggestions:

Reducing teen smoking: The President urged Congress to set ambitious targets to cut teen smoking by 30% in five years, 50% in seven years, and 60% in 10 years, and to impose severe non-tax-deductible financial penalties on each tobacco company that fails to meet these targets.

He also called for increasing the price of cigarettes up to $1.50 a pack over the next decade as a way to reduce smoking; urged legislation to institute an antitobacco public education and advertising campaign; sought stronger and more visible warning labels on tobacco products; and asked for a law to even further restrict the access of youngsters to tobacco products and any advertising efforts aimed at teens.

Strengthening the FDA’s jurisdiction: The President urged Congress to explicitly affirm the FDA’s authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and sale of tobacco products. “In particular,” he said, “legislation cannot impose any special procedural hurdles on the FDA’s regulation of tobacco products.”

Changing the tobacco business: Mr. Clinton sought to require broad disclosure of industry documents—especially those relating to scientific or other health data and the industry’s attempts to market tobacco to children—as a means of helping uncover industry malfeasance.

The President also wants to force tobacco companies to set up formal internal compliance programs to stop marketing efforts aimed a children, and for Congress to establish oversight mechanisms to investigate and monitor corporate compliance.

Improving public health: Mr. Clinton asked Congress to strength smoking restrictions in the workplace and public facilities, and to broaden the availability of smoking cessation services to help smokers end their tobacco addictions.

Helping tobacco farmers: The President, while coming down hard on the tobacco industry, sought to soften any blows against the farmers who grow its basic ingredient, saying that his administration would work to protect the financial well-being of tobacco farmers.

 
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