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CLINTON FIRES ON TEEN SMOKING

In a dramatic assault on cigarette consumption, President Clinton on Thursday ordered a government crackdown on teen smoking, including a ban on vending machines and tobacco sponsorship of sporting events.

Declaring nicotine an addictive drug, Clinton instructed the Food and Drug Administration to draft a series of regulations to keep smoking and chewing tobacco away from youths. But the president still hoped the threat of stern action would force Congress and tobacco interests to adopt their own compromise measures.Clinton's proposals include measures to:

- Require the tobacco industry to fund a $150 million education campaign to stop kids from smoking, with a major emphasis on television public service spots.

- Forbid brand name sponsorship of sporting events and on products like hats and T-shirts that are that are not related to tobacco use.

- Ban all cigarette vending machines and self-serve displays, allowing cigarettes to be sold only by clerks from behind a counter.

Calling teen smoking a critical health issues, Clinton met with children in the Oval Office on Thursday to say, "We should do everything we possibly can to keep tobacco out of the hands of our young people."

Tobacco interests immediately promised a fight, seeing new rules aimed at teens as a first step toward broader restrictions on smoking.

"We don't need big government trying to run our lives," North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday.

Reluctant to fight the powerful tobacco lobby, the White House said Congress could avert FDA regulations by passing similar restrictions on its own.

The administration published in the Federal Register its intent to regulate teen smoking, giving opponents 90 days to object, force Clinton to back off or compromise with the White House.

Under the proposed rules, tobacco companies such as Philip Morris could sponsor sporting events, but name brands such as Virginia Slims could not.

The proposals are designed to cut teen smoking in half over the next seven years. The lengthy proposed rule also would:

- Limit tobacco ads to black and white texts, with no pictures, when they appear in magazines with significant numbers of teenage readers.

- Forbid outdoor tobacco ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

- Require proof that a customer is 18 before selling cigarettes.

- Ban "marketing gimmicks" such as selling half-packs or single cigarettes.

- Forbid mail-order sales and self-service displays of cigarettes.

- Make manufacturers, distributors and retailers responsible for underage sales. The onus would be off the young buyer and part-time sales clerk.