[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 4, 1998]
[Pages 500-501]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
April 4, 1998

    Good morning. The First Lady and I have just returned, exhausted but 
exhilarated, from our trip to Africa. I know that many of you traveled 
along with us day by day through television and the Internet, but I wish 
every American could have seen up close the renewed hope and restored 
pride that is evident in the six countries we visited. We saw parents 
building futures where their children will be free from want, free from 
injustice, free from disease, and free to go as far as their God-given 
talents will allow.
    This morning, I want to report on the progress we're making in our 
country to free children from two of the greatest health and safety 
dangers they face: the cruel and deadly lure of smoking and the lethal 
combination of drinking and driving.
    Three years ago, appalled by how many children were becoming 
addicted to cigarettes every year, the Vice President and I committed 
this administration to stopping the sale and marketing of cigarettes to 
children. Today, thanks to these efforts and the persistence of State 
attorneys general, the public health community, and leaders in Congress, 
we have the best opportunity ever to pass comprehensive antismoking 
legislation that will save millions of our children from a premature, 
painful, and very preventable death.
    This week, in an historic and resounding 19 to 1 vote, a key Senate 
committee gave its stamp of approval to comprehensive legislation 
sponsored by Senator John McCain, a Republican, 
and Senator Fritz Hollings, a Democrat, 
that would cut youth smoking by half over the next decade. This bill 
represents a dramatic step forward. It would raise the price of 
cigarettes, give the FDA full authority to regulate tobacco products, 
ban advertising aimed at children, and protect tobacco farmers.
    We still have work to do on this legislation. Above all, we need to 
put in place tough penalties that will cost the tobacco industry if it 
continues to sell cigarettes to young people. Just this week the Centers 
for Disease Control released a disturbing report that found that more 
than a third of teenagers in the United States now smoke, even though 
it's illegal.
    It is time to hold tobacco companies accountable. Reducing youth 
smoking must be everybody's bottom line. Let's remember, this is not 
about politics or money or seeking revenge against the tobacco industry 
for past practices. We're not trying to put the tobacco companies out of 
business. We want to put them out of the business of selling cigarettes 
to kids. This week's progress in the Senate shows we have real momentum 
in both parties to do just that.
    Unfortunately, this week the Congress also took a step backward on 
efforts to cut down on drunk driving, a horror that has shaken nearly 
every American community. Republican leaders in the House blocked a full 
vote on an important measure to encourage States to adopt a stricter 
definition of drunk driving that has already passed the United States 
Senate. I urge the House leadership to reconsider its unwise action. A 
stricter definition of drunk driving will not prevent adults from 
drinking responsibly, but it will save thousands of lives.
    There are fewer than 75 days remaining on Congress's legislative 
calendar. But as we saw this week in the Senate, when we set aside 
partisan differences and keep our eyes on the prize of dramatically 
improving our children's health, we can make remarkable progress in 
record time. There are still many issues to be worked out and many long 
nights ahead. But we have within our grasp one of the most important 
public health victories our Nation has ever achieved.
    Finally, let me just pause a moment to observe the 30th anniversary 
of the death of one of America's greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther 
King. His dream, deeply rooted in the American dream, is a dream for all 
Americans. It's a

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dream, as I recently saw, shared by millions and millions of people 
around the world. Let us here at home always strive to heed Dr. King's 
words and live up to his legacy.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 10:50 a.m. on April 3 in the Roosevelt 
Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on April 4.