Vice President Al Gore kicked off his fall campaign for president with a warning to tobacco marketers and a vow to take on sex and violence in the media.
In his acceptance speech at last week's Democratic convention, Vice President Gore warned tobacco marketers he planned to push for even greater regulation on marketing and advertising than they have already agreed to.
"Getting cigarettes out of the hands of kids before they get hooked is a family value," Vice President Gore said to cheering delegates at the Democratic National Convention herGore targets on Aug. 17. "I will crack down on the marketing of tobacco to our children, no matter how hard the tobacco companies lobby, no matter how much they spend."
Vice President Gore previously proposed the government fund an anti-smoking ad campaign and had strongly supported implementing the drastic curbs on advertising and marketing proposed by former Food & Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler. The FDA's regulations were negated by a Supreme Court ruling that the FDA did not have the right to regulate tobacco.
Last week's speech, however, indicates he will push further.
In a pact with attorneys general two years ago, tobacco companies agreed voluntarily to comply with some of the proposed FDA ad curbs, which included pulling billboards and halting giveaways of merchandise with tobacco insignias. Subsequently Philip Morris USA also agreed to pull its ads from magazines with significant youth readership.
Other FDA proposals fought both by tobacco companies and ad groups were either never instituted or went into limited effect. The FDA had proposed limits on in-store signage, as well as complete bans on tobacco merchandise giveaways and tobacco-brand sponsorships of sporting and entertainment events.
Reacting to Vice President Gore's comments last week, tobacco companies reiterated they were not marketing to kids, although tobacco stocks declined the day following the speech.
'MORE OF THE SAME'
"I wish he would tell us what we are doing to market to children," said Mark Smith, director of public affairs for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. "We hear these broad generalities. It's more of the same, more confrontation. It appears some people continue to want to use tobacco as a campaign issue, when what it takes is cooperation."
Tom Ryan, manager of media programs for Philip Morris, said his company had "no quarrel" with those taking a strong position on youth smoking, but also said it wants to work with--not fight--the government.
"We are committed to working with anyone," said Mr. Ryan. "He doesn't want tobacco companies marketing to kids, and we agree with that."
Maura Payne, VP-communications for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said she is "loath to speculate" on what Vice President Gore's comments indicate "until we see the nuts and bolts." She also noted that Reynolds has had a program in place since 1991 to reduce youth smoking.
In his speech, Vice President Gore also took on the media. He vowed to "give more power back to the parents to choose what your children are exposed to, so you can pass on your family's basic lessons of responsibility and decency," but offered no specifics.
Vice President Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, has ripped Hollywood for increased sexual and violent content in movies, TV shows and videogames, as well as for allegedly advertising adult movies to minors.
Still, entertainment industry attendees at several convention-related forums were mostly smiles--even when Empower America Co-Director Bill Bennett reiterated some of the charges.
"What this country needs is a good dose of Jewish guilt," said Mr. Bennett. Suggesting the movie industry should exercise greater responsibility, he said, "I think we are underestimating the American people. We pitch too low."
Director and producer Sydney Pollack said government intervention is not the answer.
At another forum, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman-CEO Jack Valenti said the Hollywood "villain" Sen. Lieberman is targeting simply does not exist.
"The [old] Hollywood is in Forest Lawn Cemetery," said Mr. Valenti. "Nobody has the power to take out sex."
Copyright August 2000, Crain Communications Inc.