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The President's Radio Address

November 09, 1996

Good morning. Today I want to talk with you about what we can do as a nation to help parents as they try to raise their children. This week the American people came together to say that we are on the right track to the 21st century. They said we must continue to make real our vision to create an America where we offer opportunity to all, demand responsibility from all, and build a stronger American community of all Americans where everyone has a role to play.

At the heart of this mission has been our effort to strengthen America's families. This is work I am determined to build upon these next 4 years. We will continue to strengthen families by creating economic opportunity so that hardworking parents can provide for their children. To do that, I ask Congress to join with me to finish the job of finally balancing the budget in a way that protects our values. We will continue to strengthen families by helping parents to succeed at work and at home, by giving families safe streets to walk on and communities free from gangs and guns and drugs, and by expanding educational opportunity so that literacy is a given and college is within reach of all Americans.

We will continue to strengthen families by helping parents to protect their children from bad influences that come from outside the home. American parents are working overtime to set good examples only to have the full force of popular culture make their work harder. That's why we gave parents the V-chip and a television rating system so they can keep televised violence and explicit sexuality out of their young children's lives. And that's why we'll continue our efforts to help parents protect their children from the corrosive, dangerous influences of tobacco and alcohol.

We know the power of tobacco advertising to reach out to children every day and to get them hooked on a habit we know is deadly. Every day nearly 3,000 young people start to smoke in this country, even though it's illegal to sell cigarettes to them. This week we received further chilling evidence why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our children from tobacco. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million Americans under the age of 18 who smoke today will eventually die prematurely from smoking. The CDC estimates that today's teen smokers will run up an estimated $200 billion in projected health care costs from tobacco-related illnesses. Their premature deaths will cut approximately 64 million years off the lives of Americans.

That's why my administration has taken tough, unprecedented action to stop advertising and marketing of cigarettes that can persuade teenagers to smoke. We're banning tobacco advertising on billboards near schools, ending cartoon characters in ads that children will likely see, restricting the cigarette machines that make it easier for children to illegally buy cigarettes.

The CDC report shows that when parents, teachers, doctors, and government work together we can stop people from smoking. The CDC studied two States that have put in place strong antismoking initiatives, California and Massachusetts. Both now have smoking rates lower than the national average, and both have seen smoking drop dramatically—15 percent in California and 20 percent in Massachusetts.

These reports tell all of us, keep up the fight to protect our children's health. It's worth it, and it works. We've worked so hard here to warn our children about the dangers of drugs, to tell them drugs are illegal, drugs can kill them, drugs can ruin their lives. We've worked hard to protect funding for safe and drug-free schools so the community can help parents. We must not weaken in this fight to protect our children from the dangers of tobacco.

We also have a duty to protect our families from the consequences of alcohol abuse. In the last year alone, 2,200 young people between the ages of 15 and 20 died in alcohol-related car crashes. We've worked hard to keep our children away from alcohol. Just last month I issued a rule telling the States they could lose some of their Federal highway funds if they did not make it illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with alcohol in their blood—zero tolerance.

Now the American liquor industry has made a decision that will make this hard work even harder. For a half-century now, liquor companies have agreed not to advertise their products on television and radio for the simple reason that it was the right thing to do. This week, however, the liquor industry announced it would break its ban and put liquor ads on the air, exposing our children to such ads before they know how to handle alcohol or are legally allowed to do so. That is simply irresponsible.

I commend the four major broadcast networks for saying they'll continue to honor the ban and keep liquor ads off the air. I urge all other broadcasters to follow that example. Parents have a hard enough time raising good kids these days, and all of us have a responsibility to help them to make those jobs easier, not harder.

To tobacco companies we should all say, "Sell your products to adults, but draw the line on kids." And to liquor companies we should say, "You were right for the last 50 years when you didn't advertise on television. You're wrong to change your policy now. This is no time to turn back. Get back on the ban." That's the best way to protect all our families.

Our goal must be to help parents pass on their values to their children, help our children act responsibly, and teach them to take charge of their own lives. If we do this, America's days—best days are still ahead.

Thanks for listening.

NOTE: The address was recorded at 5:30 p.m. on November 8 in the Oval Office at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on November 9.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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