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Rep. Cynthia McKinney Admonishes the Tobacco Industry and Republican Leadership Targeting Minority Communities

April 27, 1998

"The targeting of youth in our poor and minority communities is reprehensible."

(Washington) -- Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) today condemned the tobacco industry "and anybody else jelly-spined enough not to stand up and say no for sake of our children. The Republican Leadership insults the intelligence of the American public when they say that Joe Camel has nothing to do with our childrenıs addiction to this drug," said McKinney. These companies are have kept their stockholders happy and their profits fat at the expense of the health and lives of our youth long enough," she continued.

In a report presented to President Clinton by U. S. Surgeon General David Satcher it is estimated that 1.6 million Black children will become regular smokers, and 500,000 will die as a result. ³Joe Camel has everything to do with the lure of our children to tobacco. On every billboard on every street corner in the inner-city where poor minorities live there are ads that suggest buying and smoking cigarettes is the Œcoolı thing to do,² said McKinney. The tobacco industry has lied about targeting our youth, covered it up and are continuing to get rich on top of it," she continued.

Legislation proposed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will require that tobacco companies pay $516 billion over 25 years and raise the price of cigarettes by $1.10 a pack by the year 2003. ³I support the flavor of this bill with its price increases, but it lacks appropriate liability language. I support the strategic effort being made to curb the purchase of cigarettes by our young people... making cigarettes less affordable is a definite disincentive. This proposal hits the tobacco industry in the pocket, but not enough. There should be no shield for tobacco companies from future lawsuits. Fewer ads in the community and higher prices will curb young people from developing this addiction,² said McKinney. "Our solution to this problem must stretch to protect the potentially targeted victims in third world countries and provide American tobacco farmers with incentive to grow other life sustaining crops," she continued.

The Surgeon General study looked at four major ethnic groups—Blacks, Hispanics, Native American and Alaskan Natives, and Asian and Pacific Islanders. Among teen-agers cigarette use increased among all groups, but the most rapidly rising use was found among Black teens.

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