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 McCain To Unveil Proposed Tobacco Policy(03-30-98)



White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles Speaks On Tobacco Legislation

March 30, 1998


BOWLES: Thank you, Mike. I will tell you that, if Carolina had won that game, the president would have had to get somebody else to make this speech.


I am happy to be at the Center for National Policy. Any organization that's been headed by my childhood hero, Terry Sanford; by Ed Muskie, who brought along Carol Parmalee, who I'm devoted to; Mike Barnes and Kirk O'Donnell (ph), must be my kind of place.

As many of you know, I am not generally the administration's spokesperson on issues such as tobacco. But I am here today not only as the chief of staff of this administration, but also as a businessman, as a proud North Carolinian, and as a parent of three children to talk to you about the president's plan to protect our kids from tobacco.

Let me ask you to consider these facts.

Smoking kills 430,000 people every year. It kills more people than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, fires and drugs combined. Smoking is still, by far, the largest preventable cause of premature death in this country today.

Nearly 90 percent of smokers started smoking before they reached the age of 18. Nearly half of these teenage smokers think they will not be smoking five years after starting. Yet, only one in five actually manages to quit.

Every day -- every single day -- 3,000 kids will become regular smokers. And 1,000 of them -- 1,000 of them -- will die sooner as a result.

At the same time, multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising campaigns have been designed to get our kids to light their first cigarette. I believe that is an outrage.

In the past months, new documents have come to light that conclusively prove that tobacco companies aim to sell their deadly products to children as young as 12 years of age. These documents are a shocking reminder that our children are under siege by a deadly and powerful enemy and it is up to us to protect our children.

As chief of staff of this administration, I can tell you that protecting our children from the threat of tobacco is right at the top of President Clinton's agenda. And this administration is fully committed to working in a truly bipartisan manner with the leadership in Congress to achieve this goal.

This is a matter of priorities. It is not a matter of politics.

Many members of Congress from both parties have shown enormous leadership on this important issue.

First and foremost, Congressman Henry Waxman has been in the forefront of this issue for years, providing the powerful leadership it took to bring us to the critical point we are today. It is a certainty that we would not be where we are today if it were not for the leadership of Henry Waxman.

Congressman Bliley -- Congressman Bliley has recently done the American people a great service by having thousands of pages of documents -- documents from the tobacco companies -- posted on the Internet so all the world can see how the tobacco companies have gone after our kids.

Congressman Fazio, and Senators Conrad, Harkin and Chafee -- each of these men have worked long and hard to introduce tobacco legislation that this administration can support.

And Senator McCain -- Senator McCain has provided great leadership in the Commerce Committee to draft a bipartisan bill that will move us closer to enacting comprehensive tobacco legislation.

Every one of you in this room knows that putting together legislation that is as large and complex as this is is indeed a difficult task.

I certainly learned that when we put together the bipartisan balanced budget agreement. But Senator McCain has done so in a way that has been both open and inclusive as well as efficient and productive.

Senator McCain will most likely reduce -- excuse me -- will most likely release this bill later today. And we will need to review it in detail before making any final judgments. But based on what I have seen and heard, I will say this today. We expect to see a bill from Senator McCain that will lay a foundation for further action but also has room for real improvement.

For example, we do not believe the McCain bill will impose strong enough look-back penalties on companies that continue to sell tobacco to our children. Reducing youth smoking is our bottom line. It must also be the industry's bottom line.

We also anticipate seeing some gaps in the bill. The McCain bill does not try to comprehensively address the questions of how best to use tobacco revenues to protect the public health and to help our children.

As for liability, it is not yet clear what Senator McCain will provide. But our position is clear. Unless we are imposing tough penalties on the tobacco companies and doing everything in our power to reduce youth smoking, this administration will not address proposals to give the tobacco companies protection from liability. As we have said many times, reasonable limits on liabilities will not be a deal-breaker in a bill that meets all of the president's principles. But first, we have to get that kind of bill.

We do believe the McCain bill will make significant inroads on youth smoking by substantially increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes. We believe the McCain bill will also give the FDA the full authority it needs to regulate tobacco products, including the authority to restrict both the advertising aimed at young people and their access to tobacco.

And the McCain bill is also expected to contain a strong plan to protect our tobacco farmers and their farming communities.

We look forward to working with Senator McCain and others on the Commerce Committee and in the full Senate to significantly strengthen this bill and make it an even more effective instrument to reduce youth smoking.

As you all know, President Clinton has proposed a comprehensive plan that he believes and experience shows is the best way to stop youth smoking before it starts.

We are pleased that the McCain bill will likely include many of the elements of the president's plan, and we will work long and hard with Senator McCain to make sure that we improve his bill so that it meets all of the president's goals.

The president's plan would raise the price of tobacco by up to $1.10 a pack over five years and $1.50 a pack over 10 years and impose tough penalties on companies that continue to sell their products to children. It would affirm the FDA's full authority to regulate tobacco products. It would get companies out of the business of marketing and advertising and selling their products to minors. It would promote the public health research and public health goals, and it would protect our tobacco farmers and their farming communities.

The Treasury Department has found that the president's proposal to stop teenage smoking will save one million lives over the next five years. Last week Vice President Gore announced that new estimates show that our proposal would have major effects on youth smoking in every single state, while reducing smoking among teenagers from an amount of 33 percent in the state of Washington to 51 percent in Kentucky.

For every dime added to the price of cigarettes over the next five years, up to 270,000 fewer teenagers will begin smoking, and more than 90,000 premature deaths will be avoided.

Price increases alone are projected to reduce teenage smoking over the next five years by up to 29 percent. Youth access and marketing restrictions in the president's plan are projected to reduce teenage smoking by an additional 11 percent.

The combination of price increases called for in the president's plan plus the tighter restrictions on youth access and marketing will reduce the number of youths smoking by three million between now and the year 2003, and more importantly, it will help us avoid approximately one million premature deaths.

Now, the tobacco companies themselves must also be a part of the solution. As the president has said, advertising aimed at adults is legal. But the tobacco companies must -- the tobacco companies must draw the line at advertising to our children.

Our proposal requires tobacco companies to help establish smoking-cessation programs for adult smokers and to launch public education campaigns aimed at our children to keep them from smoking in the first place.

The heavy human cost of smoking to our families and communities is indeed tragic. But as a businessman, I can tell you that the economic cost to our society is also extremely high. Smoking-related illnesses cost approximately $60 million every year. That's more than the federal government spends on education, child care and medical research combined.

Smoking during pregnancy results in 2,500 fetal deaths every year and costs $4 billion per year. This amount is close to double what we spend on cancer research each year.

Smokers die earlier and they have to retire sooner. And this is estimated to cost our economy as much as $80 billion every year in lost output, lost productivity and lost wages. These costs rob our economy and cheat the American people out of their hard-earned tax dollars. But if we pass the president's plan, we will take the first important steps to reducing these costs, increasing productivity, and most importantly, saving lives.

We know that this plan will be good for America, and as a North Carolinian, born and bred in tobacco country, I can tell you that we must also make sure that we treat our tobacco farmers fairly.

The president has made protecting tobacco farmers and their communities one of the five key elements of his plan for comprehensive tobacco legislation. We can achieve the twin goals of both protecting the health of the public and protecting the well-being of our farming communities.

Recently, a remarkable coalition of farming groups, including both burley and flue-cure farmers and public health groups, including both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, came together around a shared set of principles. We believe that this is a consensus that we can build upon.

We propose to use some of the revenues from raising the price of cigarettes to make sure that we save our kids without devastating our farm communities. That is a commitment this administration has made, and we are optimistic, but a consensus is forming in Congress to use some of this money to help tobacco farmers along the way.

President Clinton has submitted to the Congress the first balanced budget in 30 years. This budget protects our children from the harms of tobacco and our nation from the burdensome cost associated with teen smoking. This budget also uses the very money raised by raising the price of cigarettes to invest in the future of our children and the future of our nation.

Our budget uses the tobacco money for critical investments in health research -- including biomedical research, cancer clinical trials and children's help outreach; increases by nearly 50 percent the funding for the National Institutes of Health. We also make historic investments in child care and afterschool care, doubling the number of working families who receive child care and significantly increasing the number of students receiving afterschool care. And lastly, we make unprecedented investments in education, reducing class size, hiring 100,000 additional teachers and building or rehabilitating 5,000 schools.

Finally, and most importantly, as a parent of three children, I can tell you that when I hear the statistics I mentioned earlier, it makes my blood run cold.

When I saw the documents that showed that tobacco companies had deliberately, deliberately tried to get our children to smoke despite the fact that a full one-third of the 3,000 kids who start smoking every day die prematurely, I knew then and there that we must not rest until we have done every single thing we possibly can to protect our children from tobacco.

We have it within our power right now to save the lives of one million kids over the next five year. We must not, we must not miss this historic opportunity.

As President Clinton recently said, we stand on the verge of the greatest public health achievement in history, a historic triumph in our fight to protect America's children from the deadly threat of tobacco.

As chief of staff of this administration, as a businessman, as a North Carolinian, as a parent of three children, and as an American, I ask you to support our efforts and to work with us in a bipartisan manner to meet this vitally important challenge.

Thank you.



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Erskine Bowles Speaks On Tobacco Legislation

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