The President. Good morning. Vice President Gore has joined me today to talk to you about what we're doing to reduce smoking, especially by young people, and to protect Americans from the potential threat of secondhand tobacco smoke.
Cigarette smoking is the most single significant public health problem facing our people today. Every year, more Americans die from smoking-related diseases than from AIDS, car accidents, murders, suicides, and fires combined, taking a terrible human toll and putting great financial burdens on our health care system and on businesses all across America.
Last year we took bold action to shield our children from tobacco, telling the tobacco companies: Market and sell your products to adults if you wish, but you must draw the line at children. And we launched a comprehensive plan that prohibits retailers from selling tobacco to minors and requires clerks to check I.D.'s before selling cigarettes to the young people. These regulations are critical to our goal of keeping tobacco out of our children's lives, but they must be enforced. I requested $34 million for enforcement in my 1998 budget, but Congress has cut that funding. I urge the Congress to do the right thing and restore the full $34 million when they return in September. We need to do more to cut off our children's access to tobacco, and this is no time to cut corners.
This week I signed historic legislation that balances the budget in a way that protects our values, invests in our people, and prepares us for the 21st century. Our balanced budget includes a 15-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to help States provide health care for up to 5 million uninsured children and helps to prevent many young people from taking up smoking in the first place.
But we must do more to protect all Americans from the dangers of smoking. One of the most important things we can do is to protect those who don't use tobacco from the threat of secondhand smoke. And I'd like to ask the Vice President to say just a few words about what that threat means to our families and children.
[At this point, Vice President Gore made brief remarks.]
The President. Thank you. Today I am signing an Executive order that takes the next step and bans smoking in all Federal facilities under the control of our administration. A year from today, every Federal agency and office building, every visitors center at every national park, every facility owned or leased by the executive branch must be smoke-free.
Now, this order does allow agencies to designate smoking areas for their employees who smoke, as long as these areas are ventilated to the outside and nonsmoking employees do not have to enter them. Our Federal workers and the thousands of people who visit Federal facilities will now be protected from the risk of secondhand smoke.
This fall, I hope we'll begin an important national debate on additional measures we can enact to reduce smoking, especially by children. I applaud the State attorneys general and public health advocates for providing us an extraordinary opportunity to engage in this debate and to build on the progress we've already made. I'm particularly pleased their plan includes a proposal, based on a bill by Representative Henry Waxman, to protect all Americans from secondhand smoke. And I look forward to working together in the months ahead to meet this challenge.
Americans who have made the choice not to use tobacco products should not be put at risk by those who choose to smoke. With this step we're taking today, millions of Americans will be able to breathe just a little easier.
Thanks for listening.