Mar. 25 2000
Washington, DC - The President has underscored the urgency of addressing the tobacco epidemic by making this issue the subject of his radio address even in a week when he has worked to bring peace to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The Supreme Court sent the same urgent message this week when it called tobacco use “perhaps the single most significant threat to public health in the United States.” But the Supreme Court made it clear that only Congress can protect our kids and families from the greatest public health menace of our time. Is Congress finally going to protect our kids, or will they continue to protect Big Tobacco’s profits? That is what this debate is about. It is truly Congress that is going to decide how many more children become addicted to tobacco and how many more people die prematurely as a result. The urgency of the problem requires that Congress put aside partisan bickering and get the job done even in this election year. We already have a bipartisan framework for action in the form of the legislation granting FDA authority over tobacco that was drafted by Senator Bill Frist, endorsed by every major public health group, and included in the 1998 McCain bill. A bipartisan majority of at least 57 senators supported it. There is no reason for delay in reintroducing this legislation and enacting it into law. If Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies are serious about supporting regulation of tobacco, they should line up behind this legislation as well. Three thousand more kids become regular smokers every day, and 1,000 of them will die prematurely as a result. The American people should hold Congress responsible if it fails to act to address this public health crisis.