Smoking Rises Sharply Among Minority Teens
Clinton says curbing teen smoking 'is not rocket science'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 27) -- A new study says the rate of cigarette smoking by African-American and Latino teenagers is rising sharply and it represents "a time bomb for the health of our minority community," Surgeon General David Satcher said Monday.
Satcher, who joined President Bill Clinton at the White House for the report's release, said smoking is up by 80 percent among African American teens and by 34 percent among Latino teens since 1991. (640K wav sound)
Satcher said the nation has made great strides since the first surgeon general report on the risks of smoking in 1964. "But it still devastates the health and welfare of far too many of our fellow citizens," Satcher said.
The good news, Satcher said, is that tobacco-related deaths are the most preventable. "So let's get busy and prevent it," Satcher said.
Clinton said the report, the 24th issued by the surgeon general's office on the health dangers of tobacco, represents fresh evidence about the perils of youth smoking. Clinton used the occasion to again urge Congress to move quickly to approve pending legislation to boost cigarette prices and restrict tobacco marketing.
"The call to action should be getting louder," Clinton said. "We know what the danger is. We know what the remedy is. They're just kids. We're the grownups. (544K wav sound)
"Now if we know what the danger is, and we know what the remedy is, are we going to do what it takes to save their lives and their health and their future or not?" Clinton asked. "It is as simple as that. This is not rocket science."
The study, available on the Web at the surgeon general's site, links the increase in smoking by minority youths to tobacco advertising and sponsorships targeted at minority communities and events.
The report found that smoking rates among black teens is rising three times as fast as smoking among white teens. Fourteen percent of black teens reported smoking a cigarette in the past month, up from 9 percent in 1992.
Among Hispanic teens, 26 percent reported smoking in the last month, up from 20 percent six years ago.
The report also shows that the lung cancer death rate among black men is 50 percent higher than white men, even though the adult smoking rates for both races is roughly the same for both races.
Republicans squabble in tobacco debate
Clinton's latest push comes at an uncertain time in the tobacco debate. Senior Republicans are openly quarreling over how far they can go in penalizing the tobacco industry for teen-age smoking and cigarette-related health problems. (480K wav sound)
A measure currently moving through Congress would boost cigarette prices to more than $5 per pack unless modified, a key Republican critic of the bill charged Sunday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said his committee will hear testimony Wednesday that the bill's $1.10-per-pack fee would cost a typical husband and wife more than $1,000 a year if they each smoke a pack a day.
The bill's sponsor, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, an Arizona Republican, disagreed with Hatch's cost estimate, but conceded that the bill needs revision despite its resounding 19-1 passage by his panel last month.
Meantime, the tobacco industry has threatened to fight any bill it thinks harms its long-term economic interests.
CNN's John King contributed to this report.