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Clinton Continues To Push Tobacco Issue

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN


WASHINGTON (April 16) -- President Bill Clinton has asked his close friend and aide Bruce Lindsey to monitor the secret negotiations involving two major cigarette makers, Philip Morris and RJR Nabisco, that could result in a dramatic out-of-court settlement. The White House is wasting no time claiming credit.

"The president is proceeding to protect America's health interests and specifically the health needs of kids," spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters today.

The battle against smoking has been a winning political issue for the Clinton Administration. Just Tuesday, he took his campaign to a junior high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., praising the Liggett firm's chief executive officer for admitting that nicotine is addictive and agreeing to cooperate with plaintiffs.


"I hope the other tobacco companies will follow his lead and tell the truth" and stop marketing their products to children, Clinton said.

Polls showed that this issue has been especially powerful among women voters, and they also showed that even smokers don't like the tobacco companies. Despite his anti-smoking stance, Clinton carried Kentucky last year, and was very competitive in other tobacco states, including Virginia and North Carolina.

Vice President Al Gore, who once touted his own tobacco-state credentials, spoke emotionally at last summer's Democratic convention of his sister's death from lung cancer.

"That is why until I draw my last breath I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking," he said.


Any overall agreement with the tobacco companies would require congressional legislation, and leading anti-smoking lawmakers say they are by no means ready to sign on.

"Why do we have to protect them from liability?" Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked today on CNN. "They ought to do all those things because that's the responsible thing to do."

But despite all the tough talk, the Democrats have been willing to take campaign money from the tobacco industry, often times directing it to state parties, where there isn't the media attention that the national party receives.

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