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Memorandum on Public Availability of Tobacco Documents

July 17, 1998

Memorandum for the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Subject: Public Availability of Tobacco Documents

For decades, the tobacco industry sought to hide from the American people critically important information about the health hazards of tobacco and the industry's efforts to induce children to smoke. Recently, court cases and congressional subpoenas have forced the tobacco companies to make many of their documents public.

These documents confirm that for decades the tobacco companies did intensive research on the smoking habits of children, knew tobacco products were addictive and deadly, understood that a price increase would drive down the number of young people who smoke, and deliberately marketed their products to young people and minorities.

Because they provide new information about which types of advertising appeal to children, these documents can help public health experts design counter-advertising campaigns and other strategies to protect children. These documents also can assist scientists in understanding more about the addictive nature of nicotine, the health consequences of tobacco use, and the effects of certain tobacco product designs and ingredients. It is therefore critical to the fight against youth smoking that the Nation's scientists and public health experts carefully examine and analyze these documents.

Although many tobacco industry documents are now public, most are not readily accessible. While many public health leaders have found and highlighted important documents, there is no comprehensive public index to help researchers locate information contained in the documents. Only a small percentage of the documents are posted on the Internet and it is difficult to search through them in their current format.

The State of Minnesota is currently involved in litigation to obtain the public release of a computerized index (the so-called 4-A Index), created by the tobacco industry for use during litigation. The tobacco industry has fought to prevent the release of this index. It is the industry's road map to its own documents and could improve significantly the ability of public health experts, scientists, State and Federal officials, and the public to search through industry documents. The bipartisan comprehensive tobacco legislation recently considered in the Senate contained strong provisions for public disclosure of tobacco industry documents. While I will continue to fight to enact comprehensive tobacco legislation, I am determined to move forward to protect America's children from tobacco.

Therefore, I hereby direct you, working with the Attorney General, the States, public health professionals, librarians, and other concerned Americans, to report back to me in 90 days with a plan to make the tobacco industry documents more readily accessible to the public health community, the scientific community, the States, and the public at large. This plan should:

(1) Propose a method for coordinating review of the documents and making available an easily searchable index and/or digest of the reviewed documents.

(2) Propose a plan to disseminate widely the index and/or digest as well as the documents themselves, including expanded use of the Internet.

(3) Provide a strategy for coordinating a broad public and private review and analysis of the documents to gain critical public health information. Issues to be considered as part of this analysis include: nicotine addiction and pharmacology; biomedical research, including ingredient safety; product design; and youth marketing strategies.

To help ensure greater access to these documents, the Department of Justice plans to file an amicus brief in the trial court in support of the State of Minnesota's motion to unseal the industry-created 4-A index.

I remain committed to using every power of my office to protect children from the dangers of tobacco. Through these actions, we can use the industry's darkest secrets to save a new generation of children from this deadly habit.


William J. Clinton, Memorandum on Public Availability of Tobacco Documents Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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