Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan plans to ask states to ban cigarette vending machines and take other actions to limit tobacco sales to youths, government sources said Wednesday.
Sullivan was to make the proposal in a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, according to government sources who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
"It will be a proposal for the states to review" and decide upon, and Sullivan will not propose federal legislation, one source said.
Another source said the secretary will suggest that retailers be licensed to sell cigarettes.
United Press International, also citing unidentified sources, said that Sullivan would present the committee with model state--not federal--legislation to ban cigarette machines.
The tobacco industry strongly opposes any such ban. Tobacco lobbyists maintain that children seldom buy cigarettes from machines.
"The tobacco industry doesn't want kids smoking, but . . . the vast majority of vending machines are already in places where kids don't have access," Brennan Dawson of the Tobacco Institute said.
"Most machines are in factories, workplaces, in cocktail lounges, so it's not a primary or even a large source of underage purchases."
She said that outlawing vending machines would limit adults' right to purchase cigarettes. She also said that state laws prohibiting sales to minors ought to be enforced. Sales to children are illegal in 44 states and the District of Columbia, but the laws are widely unenforced.
A report published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Assn. estimated that smokers under age 18 buy 947 million packs of cigarettes annually, amounting to revenues of $1.23 billion, or about 3.3% of all tobacco sales.
Nearly 19% of high school seniors smoke daily--11% of them smoke more than half a pack a day--according to a recent survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Surveys also have found that the vast majority of adults who smoke started the habit as teen-agers.
On May 16, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee approved a $110-million program aimed at encouraging states to enforce laws against selling cigarettes to minors. The Bush Administration in February called that legislation unnecessary.
Sullivan has made anti-smoking issues one of his top priorities.
In January, he took on R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for planning to test-market a cigarette through advertising aimed primarily at blacks. He said the company was promoting "a culture of cancer." The next day, Reynolds canceled the campaign.
Then he called on professional athletes to refuse what he called "blood money" from cigarette makers' sponsorship of sporting events.