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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Rejects Central Part Of Landmark Tobacco Deal

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton has rejected a central provision of a landmark tobacco settlement as "totally unreasonable,'' declaring that it would undercut federal authority to regulate nicotine.

But despite the president's opposition to a major element of the proposal, cigarette companies were not expected to immediately abandon efforts to fashion an accord that would protect them from a range of litigation even as it sharply limited industry marketing.

Speaking at a news conference in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday, where he was attending a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Clinton criticized a provision of the proposed pact that would require the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to go through a cumbersome process before requiring lower levels of nicotine in cigarettes. The agency would have to prove that reducing nicotine levels would not create a black market in high-nicotine cigarettes.

"What is a black market, after all?'' Clinton asked. "A 1 percent penetration of the market, a 3 percent penetration of the market? Would we deny the FDA the right to protect 100 percent of our children because there might be a few black market cigarettes around? I think that is unreasonable.''

Clinton's comments marked the beginning of a political dance over the tobacco agreement that is likely to continue for many months as the proposed accord undergoes scrutiny by the White House and Congress.

Both state attorneys general and industry officials, who spent three months negotiating the pact, rushed to defend it Wednesday, while anti-smoking groups argued that parts of the plan not mentioned by the president also needed to be overhauled.

The Washington state attorney general, who helped negotiate the settlement's provisions, expressed surprise about the criticism, saying the deal also provided the FDA with more money and ammunition to fight smoking.