Clinton Wants To Review Tobacco Agreement
The president commends attorneys general, but says he wants to review agreement's fine print
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 20) -- President Bill Clinton, reacting cautiously, said Friday he wants a thorough "public health review" of the proposed tobacco industry agreement to see if it goes far enough to protect Americans' health.
In a statement issued in Denver, where Clinton is attending the "Summit of the Eight" meeting, Clinton said he needs to know more about the deal, which would settle state public health claims against the tobacco industry.
"Until now, we have not had the opportunity to review the actual terms of the agreement, and we have not concluded whether it is in the best interests of the public health," Clinton said.
White House officials told CNN the review could take from two weeks to two months. While the Clinton Administration worked behind the scenes in support of the tobacco agreement, there remains much skepticism in public health circles about the deal's fine print.
In the proposed deal, announced in Washington, D.C., today, tobacco companies would be required to put warnings on their packages that cigarettes are addictive and cause cancer, and also pay $368.5 billion in damages over 25 years.
After five years, the industry is required to pay $15 billion a year plus 3 percent more each year to compensate for inflation.
The industry also would give up Joe Camel and the Marlboro man, two well-known advertising icons, end outdoor advertising and quit selling cigarettes from vending machines.
In his statement, Clinton said:
"Less than one year ago, my administration announced an historic rule to protect children from the harm caused by tobacco products. Two months ago, a court in North Carolina issued a landmark ruling confirming my decision that the Food and Drug Administration has authority to regulate tobacco products to protect our children's health. These victories for the public health drove the tobacco companies to the bargaining table and extracted concessions from them that would have been unimaginable just a short time ago.
"I commend the attorneys general and other people working with them, including children's health leaders, for their hard work in negotiating this agreement in a way that seeks to advance our struggle to protect the health of children against the dangers of tobacco. They deserve our thanks for doing so.
"We must now carefully consider whether approving this proposed settlement will protect the public health -- and particularly our children's health -- to the greatest extent possible. Until now, we have not had the opportunity to review the actual terms of the agreement, and we have not concluded whether it is in the best interests of the public health. Over the next several weeks, we will undertake a thorough public health review. I am asking Bruce Reed, my domestic policy advisor -- along with Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services -- to engage in extensive consultations with the public health community and others to subject this agreement to the strictest scrutiny. They will report to me on whether this agreement represents the best means of protecting the nation's public health interests.
"In the meantime, we will fight as hard as ever to ensure that the FDA rule stands. Each day, 3,000 young people become regular smokers; 1,000 of them will have their lives cut short as a result. Protecting the health of the public and these children will be our measure of this proposed agreement," Clinton said in his statement.
The state attorneys general revealed the agreement at a Washington, D.C. hotel.
Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore called it "the most historic public health achievement in history."
Moore said agreement, which must be approved by Congress, will change the way the tobacco industry, "an industry that kills 400,000 people a year in this country," does business and would punishes the industry for past misconduct.
Moore said the agreement will require the tobacco industry to pay enough to "fully fund children's health care coverage."
Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said the agreement would also ban cigarette sales through vending machines and would eliminate tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, and restrict tobacco advertising.
The agreement would settle suits filed by at least 40 attorneys general across the United States seeking to recover the cost of Medicaid coverage paid by the states.
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