The White House stepped up its campaign against tobacco Saturday as a former tobacco industry lobbyist who is dying of throat cancer joined President Clinton in the Oval Office to urge young people to stay away from cigarettes.
"It's too late for me, but it's not too late for you," Victor Crawford, 63, said in a raspy voice during Clinton's weekly national radio address. "I smoked heavily and I started when I was 13 years old. And now in my throat and in my lungs, where the smoke used to be, there is a cancer that I know is killing me. Use your brain. Don't let anybody fool you. Don't smoke."On Thursday, the president unveiled a series of regulatory moves intended to limit smoking among the young, including having the Food and Drug Administration treat nicotine as an addictive drug, restricting tobacco advertising and promotions targeted at the young, and enforcing state laws against selling cigarettes to minors.
Crawford, a gregarious and legendary figure at Maryland's Statehouse in Annapolis, once sported pricey three-piece suits and pinkie rings and served as a state senator, a trial lawyer and, finally, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry.
He was paid up to $200 an hour, he recalled, to buttonhole old friends in the state Legislature and persuade them to drop anti-smoking measures.
Four years ago, however, Crawford joined the millions of smokers who are stricken with cancer. Since then, he has candidly told interviewers that he deserved just what he got and was stupid enough to adopt the attitude that "it won't happen to me."
With his health declining, Crawford has spoken out during the past year not only about the dangers of smoking but also about the evils of marketing campaigns designed to hook teenagers on cigarettes.
The tobacco companies will use "any marketing gimmick, any trick, to make you want to smoke," he said. "As tobacco kills off people like me, they need kids like you to replace me."