Clinton Orders Survey Of Cigarette Brands Teens Smoke
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 22) - In the wake of the failed Senate tobacco bill, President Bill Clinton announced Monday a new government effort to more closely monitor teen smoking and to collect evidence of exactly which brands young people are smoking in an effort to pressure cigarette makers.
The Department of Health and Human Services has been instructed to expand an annual survey of teen smoking and drug use. The study of more than 20,000 teen-agers will now ask smokers to identify the brand they smoke.
"I believe this is very helpful information, and we'll do our best to get good, accurate, honest data," Clinton said.
The data will allow parents and public health officials to identify which products are selling well among teenagers and work to reduce teen smoking. "Parents quite simply have a right to know," Clinton said.
The survey will identify the tobacco companies most responsible for targeting youth smokers, the president argued: "Once this information becomes public, companies will no longer be able to evade accountability and neither will Congress."
"The tobacco companies automatic, and angry dismissal of this new survey shows their continued disregard for their children's health and parent's concerns. We have a right to know," the president said.
The survey was part of the $516 billion measure killed by Republican Senate leaders last week. It was to be used to enforce penalties in the legislation against tobacco companies that did not succeed in reducing teen smoking to levels set in the legislation.
Clinton once again urged lawmakers for comprehensive tobacco legislation. "Again, I urge Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensive legislation, rather than a watered-down bill written by the tobacco lobby," he said. "The leadership must put families' interests above big tobacco's interests."
The tobacco survey is the first of several executive steps in the works to respond to the demise of major anti-tobacco legislation in the Senate.
The president cannot impose penalties on tobacco companies without congressional approval. But the officials said the annual survey data could be used to put tobacco companies on the spot, by identifying which brands are making inroads among teens.
Clinton said, "If you have an annual survey that shows a substantial differential in brand preference among young people, then it will clearly demonstrate that there's something in the nature of the advertising that has something to do with this."
An administration official told CNN the sample size of the annual government survey will be expanded to more than 22,000 teenagers as the more specific questions about smoking habits are added. The first data will be available a year from now.
The officials described the action as part of the president's effort to show he is determined to keep the pressure on Congress to pass a comprehensive anti-tobacco measure. In the absence of such a measure this year, Republicans say Clinton will not get the sweeping measure he wants.
The White House officials say Clinton will take additional executive steps to turn the public spotlight on the smoking issue.
CNN's John King contributed to this report.