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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore Urges New Tobacco Legislation

Politics: Congress should quickly act to regulate nicotine, vice president says. He also urges new census techniques.

March 22, 2000|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Calling on his GOP rival George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress to put aside partisanship and "stand up to Big Tobacco," Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday urged lawmakers to move quickly to regulate nicotine as an addictive drug now that the Supreme Court has ruled the Food and Drug Administration cannot legally take such action on its own.

It is time for the Republicans in Congress to show their independence from the tobacco lobby and "do the right thing," Gore said in brief remarks delivered minutes after the high court decision was announced. "The health of our nation certainly depends on it."

The vice president, on a one-day campaign trip to New York and New Jersey, also used his appearance at a Manhattan community service center to call for more updated techniques in conducting the 2000 census. Gore charged that GOP officials have, for partisan purposes, opposed the use of new "scientific sampling" methods, leading to a serious undercounting of blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and other minorities.

Newer sampling methods, which have been endorsed by the National Academy of Science, enable census officials to statistically estimate the population in inner-city areas and minority districts where large numbers of people have traditionally failed to fill out forms or avoided census takers. More traditional methods rely on people completing questionnaires and door-to-door visits by census officials.

Gore singled Bush out for criticism, contending that the Texas governor has sided with fellow Republicans in opposing more effective census-counting methods. "I want to say to Gov. Bush, if you really believe that every American counts, it's time to stand up to the operatives in your own party and support a census that counts every American," Gore said.

Republicans in Congress have strongly opposed the use of statistical sampling in the census, saying the data are vulnerable to political manipulation and scientific misinterpretation. For his part, Bush has said he favors expanded funding, including hiring more census takers, to achieve a more accurate census with traditional methods.

Gore said that the 1990 census missed an estimated 8.4 million people, including 1.5 million Latinos and 1 out of 10 black men. The consequences were dire for many U.S. communities, he added, because census data often determine how much federal funding a state is eligible to receive for such programs as Head Start, day care, Medicaid, housing and transportation.

The vice president suggested that Bush's opposition to better census techniques would cause census takers to miss 600,000 people in Texas, at a cost of $1.9 billion in government programs, according to a 2000 Price Waterhouse Coopers census study. In New York City, he said, the 1990 census missed more than 250,000 people, mostly minorities.

"In a nation of 250 million people, it's ridiculous to believe that the most accurate way to count everybody is by sending people out with clipboards and pencils," he said. The GOP position, Gore added, "is not an approach based on the public interest. It has to do with political power."

Following his remarks, Gore attended a private fund-raiser in New York City and then met with former directors of Bill Bradley's presidential campaign in New Jersey.

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