[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 7, 1998]
[Pages 337-338]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
March 7, 1998

    Good morning. Since I took office I've done everything in my power 
to protect our children from harm. We've worked to make their streets 
and their schools safer, to give them something positive to do after 
school and before their parents get home. We've worked to teach our 
children that drugs are dangerous, illegal, and wrong. This week we took 
a major step to protect our children, indeed all Americans, from the 
dangers of drunk driving by proposing bipartisan legislation to lower 
the legal limit to .08 in every State.
    Today I want to talk to you about the historic opportunity we now 
have to protect our Nation's children from an even more deadly threat, 
smoking. Smoking kills more people every day

[[Page 338]]

than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs, and fires 
combined. Nearly 90 percent of those smokers lit their first cigarette 
before they turned 18.
    Today, the epidemic of teen smoking is raging throughout our Nation 
as, one by one, our children are lured by multimillion dollar marketing 
schemes designed to do exactly that. Consider this: 3,000 children start 
to smoke every day illegally, and 1,000 of them will die sooner because 
of it. This is a national tragedy that every American should be honor-
bound to help prevent.
    For more than 5 years we've worked to stop our children from smoking 
before they start, launching a nationwide campaign with the FDA to 
educate them about the dangers of smoking, to reduce their access to 
tobacco products, and to severely restrict tobacco companies from 
advertising to young people. But even this is not enough to fully 
protect our children.
    To put an end to the epidemic, Congress must act. Last fall I called 
on Congress to put aside politics and pass comprehensive bipartisan 
legislation to reduce teen smoking by raising the price of cigarettes by 
up to a dollar and a half a pack over the next 10 years, imposing strong 
penalties if the tobacco industry keeps selling cigarettes to our 
children, affirming the FDA's full authority to regulate tobacco, to 
prevent children's access to tobacco products, and to restrict tobacco 
ads aimed at young people, so that our children can't fall prey to the 
deadly threat of tobacco. Now, we learned last month that if we do this, 
we'll cut teen smoking by almost half over the next 5 years. That means 
if we act now, we have it in our power to stop 3 million children from 
smoking and to save a million lives as a result.
    Today there are as few as 70 working days left before this Congress 
adjourns. On every one of those days, 1,000 adults will die from 
smoking. On every one of those days, 3,000 children will light their 
first cigarettes. On every one of those days, this Congress has the 
opportunity to stop it.
    Will this Congress be remembered for putting politics aside and 
protecting our children from tobacco or for letting the public health 
opportunity of a lifetime pass us by? There will be no greater measure 
of your commitment to the health of our children or the future of our 
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House.