Clinton urges Congress to pass tobacco legislation
BOMBAY, March 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Congress on Saturday to pass legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco after the Supreme Court struck down the FDA's existing rules.
``The ball is in Congress' court,'' Clinton said in his weekly radio address, which was taped in Bombay on the last leg of his four-day visit to India. ``They should show they ... understand the danger to our young people and give the FDA's tobacco regulations the force of law.''
The nation's highest court on Tuesday dealt a stinging blow to the Clinton administration's anti-tobacco efforts when it ruled that the federal agency overstepped its authority in 1996 when it issued unprecedented, sweeping regulations for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
Those regulations sought to restrict the sale of tobacco products to minors and to limit advertising and marketing by tobacco companies.
The last effort to pass tobacco legislation died in Congress in 1998 and some lawmakers were openly skeptical that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate would take up tobacco legislation before the Nov. 7 elections.
``This is not a partisan issue. It's a health issue for our nation and a life-or-death issue for children,'' Clinton said, citing the administration's often-quoted statistic that every day 3,000 American children begin smoking and a third of them will die earlier as a result.
Several senators, mostly liberal Democrats, said after the ruling that they were ready to draft or introduce legislation. But they acknowledged that unless Republicans come on board, it will be hard for Democrats to get action when they are in the minority in Congress.