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Gore, Teens Talk of Smoking Hazards

June 5, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ He warned them about deceptive cigarette ads, lung cancer and other tobacco-related ills, but Vice President Al Gore was preaching to the choir Friday as he spoke to teens savvy to the hazards of smoking.

About 30 students met with Gore to discuss their experiences with school anti-tobacco programs and suggested why some teens start smoking.

Just watching a friend smoke can persuade some teens to pick up a cigarette, said Amanda Tunnell, 16, of Oklahoma City.

``It’s as simple as that,″ she said. ``It’s just like another action that they did, like something they wear, something they buy that you want to go and do that because you want to be accepted.″

Deanna Durrett, a 16-year-old from Louisville, Ky., said 47 percent of Kentucky’s young people smoke or use tobacco products. ``That’s like one of two of every one of my friends,″ she said.

Most participants called for tougher anti-smoking laws and urged school officials to strictly enforce campus no-smoking policies.

Petra Tanos, a 17-year-old from Bethesda, Md., sought smoking cessation programs for young people, even those in middle school, saying, ``That’s where the problem starts.″

But some teens see no reason to quit, said Jasmyn Bowden, 15, of Washington. She said one friend who smokes told her he knew about lung cancer and emphysema but said there were no immediate dangers.

``One of the things that we need to begin to do is tell of the short-term effects _ maybe circulation loss, maybe loss of memory, those kind of things that happen immediately,″ she said.

Gore frequently mentioned tobacco legislation scheduled for debate in Congress next week, saying lawmakers will have the chance to ``start passing this law, or to give in to the tobacco lobby and to leave the rest of the people in the country high and dry.″

Scott Williams, a tobacco industry spokesman, dismissed the discussion as a ``photo opportunity″ for the administration.

``Most of the White House events on this matter continue to be focusing on pictures with young people but no discussion of the substance on the debate,″ he said.

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