Protecting Children From Tobacco
PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM TOBACCO
HON. STEPHEN HORN
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, June 4, 1998
Mr. HORN. Mr. Speaker, one of the most unsettling recent public
health trends has been rising tobacco use among teenagers. In 1991, 14
percent of eighth graders, 21 percent of tenth graders, and 28 percent
of 12th graders smoked. By 1996, those percentages had risen to 21
percent of eighth graders, 30 percent of tenth graders, and 34 percent
of twelfth graders.
What is most infuriating is that tobacco companies have geared their
marketing toward children. Our nation was shocked several months ago to
read about tobacco companies' documents detailing their plans to market
their products to children. In January, Times magazine reported that
R.J. Reynolds official J.W. Hind, in a 1975 memo, urged the company,
maker of Camel, Winston and Salem cigarettes, to ``increase its share
penetration among the 14-24 age group. In 1976, a ten-year plan
written for the board of directors of R.J. Reynolds and stamped ``RJR
SECRET said that teenagers ages 14 to 18 were ``an increasing segment
of the smoking population and suggested a brand targeted to them.
After a subpoena from House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-
VA), documents were released showing that the tobacco industry misled
people with its health claims and covered up potentially damaging
research. Other documents showed that when industry officials marketed
tobacco products to ``young adults, they were referring to children
as young as 13.
Their strategy worked. In the first four years that Camel ads
featured the cartoon character Joe Camel, smokers under 18 who
preferred Camels rose from less than 1 percent to as much as 30 percent
of the market. Some studies even show that six-year-old are as familiar
with Joe Camel as they are with Mickey Mouse.
Big Tobacco did not care that people who start smoking at a young age
are more likely to become severely addicted than those who start at a
later age. Big Tobacco shrugged at the fact that approximately one-
third of these children who become smokers will eventually die of
smoking-related diseases. Big Tobacco showed no concern that their
product acts as a ``gateway drug for children who enter a sequence of
drug use that can include alcohol, marijuana, and harder drugs. Big
Tobacco's only concern was its bottom line.
It is imperative that Congress passes a bill to curb teen smoking. In
an effort to move that process along, I recently joined a group of
House members in introducing the Bipartisan No Tobacco for Kids Act, a
tough measure which would dramatically reduce teenage smoking.
The Bipartisan No Tobacco for Kids Act would increase the price of a
pack of cigarettes by $1.50 over three years. Health experts say that
one of the most effective ways to reduce youth smoking is to raise the
price of tobacco products. Except for a small amount of money dedicated
to federal tobacco enforcement efforts and payments to settle state
lawsuits against the tobacco industry, all funds raised are dedicated to
reducing the federal debt. The bill validates the authority of the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products,
including stronger warning labels, advertising restrictions, and
detailed disclosure of all ingredients. The bill sets aggressive
targets to reduce youth tobacco use by 80 percent over 10 years.
The bill embodies the strong tobacco control measures supported by
Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General under President
Reagan, and Dr. Davis A. Kessler, former Commissioner of the FDA under
both President Bush and President Clinton.
By introducing this bill with strong bipartisan support, we hope to
keep our national effort against teen smoking out the arena of partisan
posturing. Our children's lives are infinitely more important than
political gamesmanship, and infinitely more precious than Big Tobacco's
The Senate is expected to vote soon on a comprehensive anti-tobacco
bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Legislation is still being
introduced and examined in the House. Congress should act expeditiously
to send anti-teen smoking legislation to the President. America's
children deserve nothing less.