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More minority youths smoke, report says

A surgeon general's report detailing a dramatic increase in the use of tobacco among minority teens touched off a new round of political sparring Monday between the White House and Congress.

President Clinton used the first report on smoking by young minority group members to ratchet up pressure on Congress to adopt legislation to curb under-age smoking.

But even as Clinton focused on the details of the problem, Republicans criticized him for not proposing specifics of a solution.

"The president has not provided leadership on the tobacco issue," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

"He's provided lots of rhetoric, lots of talk. And he's not shown any real courage in saying what things can be done," Lott said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that even if Clinton refrains from proposing his own tobacco legislation, he has called for ingredients like price increases that would bankrupt the industry.

Between the political sparring, Surgeon General David Satcher used the annual report to focus for the first time on smoking among young minorities. Among his findings:

About 20 percent of black high school students smoke. While they still smoke less than other groups _ half the rate of whites _ their rate of smoking jumped by 80 percent from 1991 to 1997.

About 20 percent of Asian-American high school students smoke, up 17 percent from 1990 to 1995.

About 33 percent of Hispanic high school students smoke, a 34 percent increase from 1991 to 1997.

About 50 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native high school students smoke, up 26 percent from 1990 to 1995.

With about 30 teenagers from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids behind him, Clinton noted that the tobacco industry must attract young people as customers to replace those who quit or die. And he insisted that it is up to adults to block the tobacco industry.