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Clinton Plan Seeks To Snuff Out Sale of Tobacco to Young People

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President Clinton has announced new, far-reaching federal regulations aimed at extinguishing the sale of tobacco products to young people.

Saying he wants to shield the nation's children from the unhealthful effects of tobacco, Mr. Clinton last month made final several measures intended to cut children's tobacco use in half over the next seven years.

The regulations, which were proposed last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are designed to restrict the appeal of and access to tobacco products by banning, among other things, cigarette advertisements and promotional campaigns targeted at young consumers.

The FDA has said that it has the authority to impose such restrictions because cigarettes and various smokeless tobacco products can lead to nicotine addiction.

"President Clinton's actions will ensure that children get their information about tobacco from their parents--and not from Joe Camel," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, referring to the cartoon mascot for Camel cigarettes.

The regulations, which are expected to be phased in over the next two years and bolster existing state laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors, will:

  • Prohibit advertising of tobacco products on billboards within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds;
  • Restrict print advertising in publications with a youth readership of more than 2 million to black-and-white text;
  • Ban vending machines and self-service displays of tobacco products except in facilities where people under 18 are not allowed;
  • Prohibit the sale or giveaway of such products as caps or gym bags that feature tobacco-product insignia;
  • Ban free samples of tobacco products and the sale of single cigarettes; and
  • Require that buyers younger than 27 present photo identification.

Legal Challenges, Applause

The tobacco industry has been fighting the new regulations, calling them unprecedented and unconstitutional attacks on corporations' right to promote their products.

Several major tobacco manufacturers along with a few publishers filed a joint lawsuit in federal court last year, arguing that the planned restrictions on print advertising would violate their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

But education and health leaders have been uniformly enthusiastic about the new regulations.

While nearly all schools in the country have policies prohibiting students from smoking on campus, many schools have had a difficult time enforcing the rules, Anne L. Bryant, the executive director of the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va., said last week.

Government studies show that in the past four years, the number of 8th and 10th graders who smoke cigarettes has jumped 34 percent.

The administration's campaign gives people at the school and district levels an added incentive to make sure their smoking bans are being implemented, Ms. Bryant said.

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