Clinton Calls Tobacco Bill Delay Deadly

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Trying to salvage landmark tobacco legislation, President Clinton accused members of Congress of standing in the way of saving children’s lives, declaring: “The American people will not stand for it.”

“This is a critical moment of truth for Congress,” Clinton said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Legislators, he said, “are not just trying to kill the tobacco bill, you are standing in the way of saving 1 million children’s lives.”

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) said, however, it should be up to parents, not the government, to discourage children from smoking. Sponsors of the legislation “think that they are going to accomplish something they absolutely are not going to accomplish,” Helms--whose state is the nation’s largest tobacco producer--said on CNN’s “Evans and Novak.” The bill establishes “the biggest tax increase in history,” Helms added.


Clinton is trying to breathe new life into the sweeping bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that raises cigarette taxes and more closely regulates tobacco. The legislation is bogged down in the Senate.

Clinton said the legislation has broad bipartisan support but is being held up by a few unspecified members of Congress who have “done everything they could to protect big tobacco by putting off a vote.”

“The delay has gone on long enough,” Clinton said. “The Senate should do nothing else until it passes tobacco legislation, and it should pass it this week.”

McCain’s bill charges tobacco companies at least $516 billion over 25 years, raises taxes on cigarettes by $1.10 a pack and grants the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate nicotine.


Helms and other conservatives say the proposal undercuts their drive for lower taxes and smaller government.

Clinton taped his radio address at the Boston home of Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) on the 30th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Robert F. Kennedy.

“The distance of three decades cannot silence the strength of his words or lessen the impact of his actions,” Clinton said.