Clinton Hails Tobacco Bill

President Clinton Thursday announced his support for a bipartisan tobacco bill in the Senate that would raise the price of cigarettes by up to $1.50 a pack over the next decade as part of a comprehensive approach to cut teen smoking.

Clinton praised a bill being introduced Thursday by three senators as meeting all his goals for a tough line against the tobacco companies. The sponsors are Senators Bob Graham, D-Fla., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and John Chafee, R-R.I.

"It is a good, tough bill," Clinton said in a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General. "I hope it gets wide support. This legislation will save lives."

In recent days, the Clinton administration has stepped up its public push for a comprehensive tobacco bill based on a legal settlement the industry reached last June with 40 state attorneys general.

Clinton, with Attorney General Janet Reno at his side, thanked the state law enforcement officials for taking on the tobacco companies.

"Be proud of what you have done," he said. "But bring all of your influence to bear on the Congress."

Clinton praised the attorneys general for fighting what once looked like a losing battle. He said their efforts brought to light incriminating industry documents earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

"Thirty years of deception. Now Congress must act to bring it to an end," the president said. "Thirty years of manipulation. Congress must act to bring it to an end. And it must act now."

Under the June deal, the industry would be given immunity from further government lawsuits and private class-action suits. In return, the cigarette manufacturers would restrain their advertising and marketing and pay $368 billion to settle punitive damage claims based on past industry practices.

By ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed