The President expressed his
appreciation for Senator Ted Kennedy above all today. Lamenting that
the senator could not be there for the signing of Family Smoking
Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, he called it "change that's been decades in the making." By all accounts, it is
the strongest measure protecting children from the dangers of smoking
to date -- read the fact sheet for all of the details.
He recounted the all-too-familiar
statistics: that more than 400,000 Americans now die of tobacco-related
illnesses each year; that more than 8 million Americans suffer from at
least one serious illness caused by smoking; and that almost 90% of all
smokers began at or before their 18th birthday.
He spoke on his personal experience:
I know -- I was one of these
teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit
when it's been with you for a long time. And I also know that kids
today don't just start smoking for no reason. They're aggressively
targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They're exposed to a
constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where
they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered
products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it
even more tempting.
We've known about this for
decades, but despite the best efforts and good progress made by so many
leaders and advocates with us today, the tobacco industry and its
special interest lobbying have generally won the day up on the Hill.
When Henry Waxman first brought tobacco CEOs before Congress in 1994,
they famously denied that tobacco was deadly, nicotine was addictive,
or that their companies marketed to children. And they spent millions
upon millions in lobbying and advertising to fight back every attempt
to expose these denials as lies.
Fifteen years later, their
campaign has finally failed. Today, thanks to the work of Democrats
and Republicans, health care and consumer advocates, the decades-long
effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has
emerged victorious. Today, change has come to Washington.
This legislation will not ban
all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own
choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand
feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco
companies to market products to our children by using appealing
flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly
acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell.
And it will allow the scientists at the FDA to take other common-sense
steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
This legislation is a victory
for bipartisanship, and it was passed overwhelmingly in both Houses of
Congress. It's a victory for health care reform, as it will reduce
some of the billions we spend on tobacco-related health care costs in
this country. It's a law that will reduce the number of American
children who pick up a cigarette and become adult smokers. And most
importantly, it is a law that will save American lives and make
Making clear that this legislation
does not represent the end of the road on fighting back the health
risks of smoking, the President nonetheless described it as another
very significant sign of change in Washington:
Despite the influence of the
credit card industry, we passed a law to protect consumers from unfair
rate hikes and abusive fees. Despite the influence of banks and
lenders, we passed a law to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud.
Despite the influence of the defense industry, we passed a law to
protect taxpayers from waste and abuse in defense contracting. And
today, despite decades of lobbying and advertising by the tobacco
industry, we've passed a law to help protect the next generation of
Americans from growing up with a deadly habit that so many of our
generation have lived with.