ALBANY - Elizabeth Dole, campaigning Friday in south Georgia on behalf of her husband, said President Clinton is using the tobacco issue as a political gimmick.
In remarks to reporters at an Albany hospital where she spoke on the same day Mr. Clinton declared nicotine an addictive drug, Mrs. Dole accused the president of dragging his feet on tobacco.
The wife of GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole said Mr. Clinton did nothing for 3 1/2 years and now is using the issue to get the focus off soaring teen-age drug use during his administration.
The president's action on tobacco gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The FDA wants to cut teen smoking in half within seven years by restricting youth ads and banning vending machines.
"Bob Dole has always urged young people not to smoke," she said. "He continues to feel very strongly about it. Back in 1992, he strongly supported legislation that would have required states to ban cigarettes for minors. It restricted advertising and had a ban on cigarette machines."
With no follow-up by the Clinton administration, another 3 million young people began to smoke, she said.
"The fact that there was such a long delay ... you can only feel that this is an election year gimmick to distract people from the drug report," she said.
A government report released earlier this week said teen-age drug use has climbed sharply since Mr. Clinton took office. Drug use among 12- to 17-year olds rose 78 percent from 1992 to 1995, the report said.
"What Bob Dole is going to do is have an all-out war on crime and drugs to combat drug use and tobacco use," she said. "Drug use and tobacco use has been flourishing during the Clinton years."
During her visit to Albany, Mrs. Dole greeted about 65 senior citizens at the Southwest Georgia Council on Aging, served a mealon-wheels to a senior citizen in a housing project and addressed 350 people at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Later Friday, she was scheduled to visit a food bank in Savannah.