Feb. 4 2000
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN applauds the President for proposing a serious, sound and reasonable plan to protect kids from tobacco and help current smokers to quit. The Congress should join in this effort – protecting kids from tobacco addiction should not be a partisan issue. If the cigarette companies are serious about their stated commitment to keep kids from smoking, they should support these proposals as well. This plan holds the tobacco industry accountable for its marketing and sales to children by assessing the industry $3,000 for every smoker under 18 if underage smoking is not cut in half by 2004. Despite the tobacco industry’s claims to the contrary, it is entirely within the industry’s power to avoid this penalty. The cigarette companies need to cease marketing practices that impact children, including advertising that glamorizes smoking and sponsorship of public events that are attended by children or are broadcast on radio or television. The cigarette companies can also take action to stop kids from illegally obtaining cigarettes by permitting their products to be sold only in stores that place cigarettes behind the counter and eliminating vending machine, Internet and direct mail sales of cigarettes. A plan that hits the cigarette companies where it matters – their bottom line – is the only way to get the industry to take the steps needed to seriously reduce youth smoking. Increasing the price of tobacco products, including a 25-cent per pack increase in cigarette prices, will also help to reduce tobacco use among young people. Studies have show that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces the prevalence of teen smoking by seven percent. We also applaud the President’s proposal to require that every state Medicaid program cover prescription and non-prescription smoking cessation drugs. Such coverage will increase the success rates for low-income Americans who smoke at higher rates but cannot afford cessation products to help them quit. The President’s plan is clearly aimed at fighting the pediatric epidemic of youth tobacco use and reducing the deadly toll of tobacco in our society, not at finding revenue for other purposes. It deserves strong congressional support.