Kennedy Pushes Antismoking Legislation
Massachusetts senator's bill would tighten controls on tobacco products and advertising
SEN. Edward Kennedy plans to introduce next week the nation's strongest antismoking legislation to date. The Massachusetts Democrat is putting the finishing touches on ``The Tobacco Products Control and Education Act of 1989,'' a wide-ranging bill that, if passed, would establish new controls on tobacco products and tobacco advertising. The legislation would flatly prohibit advertising to young people. In addition, the proposed legislation would fund a $50 million ``counteradvertising'' program to discourage smoking.
Senator Kennedy's staff has been working on the legislation for more than a year. According to congressional sources, he has scheduled a news conference for the morning of Nov. 15 to announce the legislation. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop will be among no-smoking advocates to appear with him.
Antismoking groups are excited by Kennedy's involvement. He is a nationally known liberal who chairs various committees and subcommittees in Congress. ``The Kennedy name will draw a lot of attention to the issue,'' says one congressional aide familiar with the legislation.
``If he can speak clearly about the issues that would be great,'' says Joseph Cherner, the head of Smoke Free Educational Services Inc. in New York.
The antismoking legislation twins Kennedy with some ideological opposites. Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), a conservative, is a co-sponsor with Kennedy on separate legislation to prohibit smoking on any public transportation that crosses state lines.
The new Kennedy legislation is certain to meet vigorous opposition from the tobacco industry. ``The debate will be robust,'' predicts Brennan Dawson, a spokeswoman for the Tobacco Institute.
Some antismoking groups, however, believe the tobacco lobby has lost some of its power. Only last month, Congress prohibited smoking on almost all domestic flights. Such efforts in the past have met with failure.
There are at least 11 other legislative proposals before Congress to restrict tobacco or increase the excise tax on it. The Kennedy legislation, however, goes beyond most of these proposals.
``It appears to have a new spin - putting many of the proposals under one heading,'' says Ms. Dawson.
Kennedy would establish a Center for Tobacco Products Control and Education at the Centers for Disease Control. This new center would coordinate the educational and research activities of the government. The educational mandate would be to school the public on the health effects of tobacco products. The center would also regulate tobacco additives and labeling - a move the tobacco industry has been fighting for years.
The center would also administer model state programs that would be geared toward curtailing the sale of products to minors. In fiscal year 1991 it would be authorized to spend $50 million.
At the same time, the government would begin a national information program, which would be authorized to spend another $50 million on public service advertising to encourage people to quit smoking.
A third element of the Kennedy program would be state ``leadership grants,'' which would divide $5 million among 10 to 20 states to support their efforts to prevent initial use of smoking by minors.
An additional requirement of the grants is to concentrate anti-smoking efforts on pregnant women, school dropouts, minorities, and blue-collar workers. Tobacco education would be included with alcohol and drug education as part of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.
Kennedy, who is chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, has also included a $5 million authorization for grants to inform blue-collar workers about the dangers of smoking. This money would go to labor unions which establish cooperative projects with employers to cut smoking among workers and their families.
The Kennedy proposal would also mandate full disclosure of the ingredients and additives to each tobacco brand. Currently the tobacco industry has revealed that data only to California Rep. Henry Waxman's (D) subcommittee on health and the environment.
Cigarette labeling would also change under the Kennedy bill, which would require the labels: ``Sale to Minors Prohibited in 43 states.'' It would also replace the current warning about cigarette smoke containing carbon monoxide with the stronger warning that smoking is addictive. The tobacco industry has long been opposed to this labeling change.
And Kennedy would outlaw the free distribution of tobacco either through samples or the use of coupons.
One of the most stringent parts of the proposed legislation deals with restrictions on cigarette advertising. The tobacco industry spends an estimated $2.4 billion a year on advertising.
Under the Kennedy legislation, tobacco companies could not advertise within two blocks of an elementary or secondary school, playground, or athletic facility.
No advertising would be allowed in sports stadiums, or on cars, boats, or other sporting equipment.
Tobacco companies would also be barred from having a brand name sponsor any musical, artistic, or athletic event.
Tobacco companies, in fact, would be limited to ``tombstone'' advertising - that is advertising with only their brand names. Live models would be prohibited. And tobacco companies would be prohibited from paying movie companies to have their products shown.