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Tobacco Producers, Health Groups Unite To Fight Youth Smoking And Stabilize Tobacco Communities

June 16, 1998

Washington, DC - Tobacco producers today joined with members of the public health community to release a historic document that calls on President Clinton and Congress to enact tobacco control legislation that will save lives and save jobs in tobacco producing communities. More than 40 organizations issued a statement of core principles. 'An unprecedented opportunity is before us to enhance the public health of this nation and protect tobacco communities. The core principles will serve as a vehicle to accomplish this goal,' said J.T. Davis, secretary of Concerned Friends of Tobacco. 'This is truly a unique win-win situation.' Calling today’s announcement a historic moment, William Broome, board member of the American Heart Association, said, 'The seriousness of the tobacco epidemic and the need for strong policies and programs to discourage and prevent the use of tobacco has put the tobacco farmer in a difficult situation with difficult choices. The farmer has had virtually no real options to get out of the tobacco business.' Broome commended the tobacco growers and tobacco growing groups, saying they 'have gone out on a limb to work constructively with the health community to achieve common public health goals.' At a press conference today in Washington, the two groups said they are actively working together to accomplish two goals: first, to reduce tobacco use in this country, especially among children and adolescents; and second, to stabilize the tobacco producers’ communities as consumption declines into the 21st century. The principles are also being released today at a press conference in Frankfort, Kentucky. 'In our community, we put families first and farms second. That’s why our tobacco growers chose to participate in this broad-based organization gathered here today,' said Rod Kuegel, president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative, Inc. 'Our farmers are serious about limiting youth access to tobacco products. That common thread links us to these health organizations,' he concluded. It is imperative that tobacco producers and their communities have options and opportunities as tobacco use declines. Preserving the economic stability of these communities is a top priority for producers as tobacco legislation moves forward. The groups also released the results of a poll of 400 Kentucky farmers examining their views on the future of tobacco farming and tobacco policy. The results reveal farmers overwhelmingly support the key elements of comprehensive tobacco control legislation including: a minimum age of 18 for buying tobacco products and the requirement that retailers check identification (74%); requiring tobacco companies to provide accurate information about ingredients in their products (83%); prohibiting tobacco companies from marketing to children (64%); allocating a portion of revenues from an excise tax to tobacco-dependent communities (68%); and providing economic development assistance to those communities (73%). 'There can be no doubt that tobacco producers -- just like the majority of Americans -- strongly believe our nation needs a tobacco control policy to protect kids and save lives,' said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. 'This agreement reflects a new level of understanding and cooperation that will help move our nation closer to this goal,' he added. In their statement of core principles, the groups agreed on issues of public health and agricultural production. Together, they will work to make certain these principles are part of any tobacco control legislation. On issues related to public health, the principles include: that the FDA must have full authority to establish fair and equitable regulatory controls to protect consumers; that federal, state and local laws guarantee that tobacco products are not marketed or sold to kids; that importation of foreign tobacco is controlled for pesticide and quality issues; and, that if there is a tax increase, a portion of the revenue be used to assist farmers and their communities. On issues related to agricultural production of tobacco, the principles include: that a tobacco program which limits supply and sets a minimum purchase price is in the best interest; that the costs associated with administration or operation of a tobacco program be paid for under any legislation; that there be greater cooperation between the tobacco growing and public health communities; that tobacco quota holders and tobacco lease holders be given the opportunity to have their quotas compensated for at a fair level; and that a significant amount of money be allocated to ensure options and opportunities for tobacco growing states and communities. 'As part of national legislation, these core principles will ensure that a tobacco control policy takes historic steps to protect kids and save lives. But they also will ensure that workers and families in communities with a history of tobacco production will not become the next victims of Big Tobacco,' added Scott Ballin, senior policy consultant to the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. More than 40 tobacco grower and public health organizations are signatories to the core principles. Grower organizations include the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative, Inc.; Flue-Cured Tobacco Stabilization Corporation; Concerned Friends for Tobacco; Commodity Growers Cooperative Association; and the National Black Farmers Association. Public health groups in support of the document include the American Heart Association; American Public Health Association; American Cancer Society; CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS; and the Interreligious Coalition on Smoking OR Health. The core principles statement is being sent to President Clinton, members of Congress and state attorneys general.