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On 8 September 1998, former United States Surgeon General C Everett Koop delivered the speech reproduced below to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This text is based on a transcript prepared by the Federal News Service, a private firm located in Washington, DC. Dr Koop kindly consented to publication of his speech in “Tobacco Control”.—ED
I was invited to speak here today, and when I heard that Dr Kessler was also going to be present, I presumed the subject would be tobacco. But I am not going to give you a blow-by-blow description of the tobacco wars. I think you know that history probably as well as anyone, and several of you are probably already writing books on the subject. Instead, I would like you to consider the anatomy of a scandal, and I’m not talking about the scandal that springs most readily to people’s minds. I’m talking about a scandal that really involves the entire nation and especially Washington.
This is a scandal of some in Congress trading public health for PAC [Political Action Committee] money and believing the slick ads of the tobacco industry. This is a scandal of senators, well over half voting “yes” but still losing. This is a scandal of some hiding from the potential to save lives and choosing instead to posture. This is a scandal of politics for sale, and to my dismay, some Republicans are going to the highest bidder.
If outsiders were to visit this land, their conclusion would have to be that the enormity of the burden of tobacco, the metastasis of this malignancy in the tobacco industry, and of the failure of Congress to respond to it, all constitute a scandal that should have pushed Monica Lewinsky to page seven of the second section. (Laughter.) Instead, this …