Smoke And Mirrors

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Why can't Johnny smoke? Because President Clinton says so, that's why. Clinton declared tobacco an addictive drug today, saying cigarette marketing which produced an epidemic of young smokers was "no accident." Also no accident, the presidential timing. The FDA had a slew of stricter rules on the sale and marketing of tobacco products ready last year, but as the President prepares for the Democratic National Convention, his Rose Garden assault on the tobacco industry will doubtless play favorably in the polls. The new FDA rules are intended to cut the number of teen smokers by 50 percent within seven years. Photo ID will be required to buy cigarettes, while vending machines will be eliminated in all but adults-only spots where minors cannot venture. Advertisements in teen magazines are restricted to a deliberately drab black and white text-only format. Billboards advertising tobacco products are subject to the same rules, and none are allowed within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds. After fashioning this policy missile, the Clinton camp hurled it right at Bob Dole, who half-heartedly defended tobacco last month, questioning whether it was really addictive. "Bob Dole faces a big decision today: protect children or protect the tobacco lobby," said Administration spokesman Joe Lockhart. "Dole will defend himself by bringing up the Administration's bad record on the drug issue," says TIME's John Dickerson. "Right now, the drug issue is a powerful one, and it is one reason why Clinton seized on the teen smoking problem. Dole will keep his mouth shut on tobacco, because at the end of the day, drug use is a more important issue than teen smoking as far as the voters are concerned." -->