Originally created 08/24/96

Still Smoking



President Clinton will have to huff and puff a little harder to stop underage smoking, say many area teens.

"He's trying to impress our parents," said Rhett Bailey, 17, Friday, in reaction to the president's actions to curb teen nicotine use.

In a Rose Garden ceremony Friday, President Clinton unveiled Food and Drug Administration regulations that are a slightly modified version of his 1995 proposal to regulate tobacco advertising, sales and access aimed at minors.

An estimated 3 million teens are smokers, consuming nearly 1 billion packs a year. The area's teens are very familiar with Joe Camel, an advertisement targeted by the president, but say they don't smoke in hopes of looking like the Marlboro Man.

"It relieves stress," said Milburn Shults, 15, who has been smoking two years and usually buys cigarettes from friends. "He can't make me change my mind."

In the area, about 40 youth participate in the Tobacco Youth Prevention Sociey (TYPS), an education and prevention program connected with the Richmond County Health Department.

Program coordinator Rebecca Inglett she hopes the president's efforts will positively influence teens.

"I think anytime a major leader comes out against tobacco use, it can only be a good thing," she said. "Youth do look up to our leaders and what they say counts."

Criticism about President Clinton's timing during the political campaign season has dampened his efforts, as many people view him as turning teen smoking into a political issue that could win him votes.

Stacie Manning, 17, questions the president's effort. The senior at Lakeside High School knows classmates who smoke, and they won't change their minds, she said.

"President Clinton thinks it's going to make the world love him," she said.

Hitting advertisers and store owners who sell cigarettes through vending machines and tightening regulations on those who sell tobacco is at least a step in the right direction, some activists say.

"I think anything we can do we should do to stop this because tobacco use is one of the major killers," Ms. Inglett said. "It far surpasses AIDS and some of these things we put a lot of significant emphasis on."