WASHINGTON — Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, putting himself at odds with the White House, gave his personal endorsement today to legislation banning cigarette advertising and promotion.
"As a person, I endorse the bill," Koop said in a response to a direct question from the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health.
"I've never been given an Administration position," Koop said. "But I'm a health officer, and anything that can lessen disability, disease and death, I'm in favor of."
But the Reagan Administration, which only last month blocked Koop's congressional testimony on the issue, told the subcommittee that the surgeon general's views are his own, not those of the White House.
Douglas W. Kmiec, a deputy assistant attorney general who testified alongside Koop, said the Administration's official position is skepticism--as to both the constitutionality of a ban and its potential efficacy.
In testimony delivered today, Koop did not even mention cigarette advertising, let alone the proposed ban. But after delivering his formal statement, Koop, under questioning, came down strongly on the side of the ban.
He said cigarette advertising recruits new smokers, increases consumption among existing smokers, encourages relapses among former smokers and makes quitting more difficult.
But Kmiec said the Administration "has very serious concerns" about an advertising ban. He said that many legitimate newspapers and magazines rely on cigarette ad revenues and that there is no evidence that banning the ads would affect consumption.
In addition, Kmiec said, "we're not talking about illicit drugs. We're talking about a product that's lawful. The Administration would much rather come down on the side of a free and open society."