Gore: Don't Ban Cigarettes
MACON, Ga. (AP) - Vice President Al Gore, confronted by a handful of angry tobacco workers, said Wednesday he does not want to make cigarettes illegal and would do what he could to protect tobacco-industry jobs - as long as it doesn't undercut efforts to
``I am happy to do anything I can to help you preserve your livelihood, but I am not going to say or do anything that in any way undermines or weakens the toughest possible measures to prevent children from ever getting into the habit of smoking. Now if that costs me votes, I'm willing to pay that price,'' Gore said at an open meeting with voters, where he was sharply questioned by employees of Brown & Williamson's tobacco manufacturing plant here.
One woman told Gore, the Democratic presidential contender, that she would like to vote for him, but that she and her co-workers feel the federal government is trying to eliminate their jobs with its anti-smoking campaign and litigation against tobacco companies.
Steve Harris, president of the local Machinists union, showed Gore photos of a vacant fabrication unit at B&W where, Harris said, machinery has already been shipped overseas with Macon-area jobs sure to follow.
Gore, a former smoker himself, told both that tobacco companies were making their own economic decisions to relocate operations abroad and they had nothing to do with the federal crackdown on cigarette sales and marketing to children.
``If, over time, the demand (for cigarettes) is decreased and the jobs are lost as a result of that, then we have to accept that fact,'' Gore said.
``I've seen someone die from lung cancer and a lot of families have been affected by it, and it's almost completely preventable and I am just not going to compromise on it,'' Gore said.
In the back of the Douglass Theater, where Gore fielded questions for more than three hours, stood Frank Hunger, widower of Gore's older sister Nancy, who died of lung cancer in 1984.
Gore and Hunger traveled to Georgia for a campaign speech Thursday in Atlanta addressing cancer research and the privacy and treatment rights of cancer patients.
Gore insisted Wednesday night that he does not intend to outlaw cigarettes.
``No matter how deep my concern, I have never advocated making the product illegal. There are tens of millions of adult smokers and, in recognition of that reality, there's just a universal acceptance on all sides of the debate that the product is going to remain legal,'' Gore said.
Harris later told reporters he is a Gore delegate to the Democratic National Convention but was undecided about who to vote for. ``There's a lot of people at my plant who aren't sure which way to go because the Democrats are trying to put the tobacco industry away,'' he said.