Former President Jimmy Carter on Monday called for a complete ban on tobacco advertising and acknowledged that he had not done enough to combat smoking while in the White House.
“I think there is a deliberate commitment on the part of the tobacco industry to cause death for profit,” Carter said after a general address to the American Public Health Assn. convention. “I would make it illegal for the tobacco companies to advertise their products.”
At a press conference, the former President said he sees no First Amendment barriers to barring tobacco advertising in all media, and he called upon the nation’s newspapers and magazines to voluntarily reject such ads on moral grounds. Opponents of an advertising ban, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, say such a ban would be a violation of the right to free speech.
Proponents of an ad ban say that the tobacco industry spends $2 billion a year on advertising, that 1,000 people die daily from tobacco-related illnesses and that the cost of treating smoking-related diseases exceeds $22 billion.
Carter called cigarettes the greatest menace to public health, and conceded, “I don’t think I did enough as President. . . . If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have done more.”
Tobacco ads are already banned from television and radio, and in July, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may ban ads for products that have “serious harmful effects” on citizens.
Also at the convention was U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who reiterated his strong personal support for a ban on tobacco advertising. But he acknowledged that the Reagan Administration does not support such a ban.