Aug. 23 1996
Washington, DC - With one stroke of his pen, President Clinton has knocked the Marlboro Man off his high horse and put cool Joe Camel in deep freeze. This sensible measure is the first national policy in history that stops tobacco companies from marketing their deadly products to our children. It fulfills its original goal of aiming to reduce youth tobacco use by 50 percent in seven years. The Center endorses this bold initiative because it: • restricts tobacco advertising in magazines with high teen readership; • prohibits tobacco brand name sponsorship of sporting and entertainment events; • bans outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds; • requires age verification and face-to-face sales and eliminates free samples, self-service displays and most cigarette vending machines; • prohibits tobacco brand names from appearing on clothing, bags and other items; • requires the tobacco industry to fund an annual public education campaign to reduce youth smoking. This historic rule comes at a critical time. Teen smoking is at a 16-year high. Smoking among kids in grades 9-12 increased from about 27 percent in 1991 to almost 35 percent in 1995. Every day another 3000 children start smoking. That’s another one million kids this year. One-third of these youngsters will die from their addictions. This momentous rule will spare some 180,000 children annually from eventually suffering tobacco-related deaths. In the coming days and months, a lot of smoke will be blown to cloud the purpose of this new policy. But when the air clears one startling fact remains: there is a 90 percent chance that kids will not take up smoking if they make it to age 19 without ever having started. This tragic fact, that virtually all new smokers are children and teenagers, is at the heart of this vital initiative. Tobacco companies know they must continue addicting new generations of smokers to stay in business. The tobacco industry will claim the FDA rule is more big government, a violation of free speech and will lead to a smoking ban. It is the same argument tobacco lobbyists have used to remain the only consumer product not subject to federal oversight. We urge Congress to support this common-sense, narrowly-focused rule. Let’s keep Joe Camel, the Marlboro Man and other appealing tobacco images out of our children’s sight and out of their lungs. Let’s give kids today a fighting chance to lead smoke-free lives.