WASHINGTON -- The administration removed the muzzle Friday from outspoken Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who was forbidden to testify at a House hearing in support of a bill banning all tobacco advertising.
The administration, which opposes the ban on tobacco ads, announced it would permit Koop to testify before the House Health and Environment subcommittee in two weeks, along with witnesses from the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.
Koop, who was denied permission to appear at Friday's hearing, said in a letter to subcommittee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., that he will be 'more than willing' to testify Aug. 1 when the panel holds its second hearing on the controversial bill to ban all tobacco ads from newspapers, magazines and billboards.
Cigarette ads were banned from television in 1970, six years after the surgeon general's office first warned smokers about the health risks of cigarettes.
'We did not realize until just recently that other agencies wished to comment on this issue,' Koop said in his letter. 'We believe it is more appropriate that my testimony as an administration official be given in the context of overall concerns about this issue in addition to (the Department of Health and Human Service's) role as an adviser on public health concerns about cigarette smoking.'
At the White House, spokesman Edward Djerejian said, 'Dr. Koop's expertise lies in the health effects of the usage of tobacco, not in advertising.'
White House chief of staff Donald Reagan earlier this week prohibited Koop from testifying in favor of the tobacco ad ban. Koop has called for a smoke-free society by the year 2000.
Waxman said he has written to Regan asking that he or his representative appear at the next hearing to explain why Koop was not permitted to testify. Waxman earlier accused the administration of censorship in ordering Koop to cancel his scheduled appearance.
'It is absolutely ludicrous for the administration to argue against a tobacco advertising ban using the free speech argument on one hand and then muzzle Surgeon General Koop on the other,' said Rep. James Scheuer, D-N.Y.
Witnesses testifying in support of the tobacco ad ban included actor Patrick Reynolds, the grandson of R.J. Reynolds, who founded the huge tobacco company; model Victoria Brynner, daughter of the late actor Yul Brynner, a heavy smoker who died of lung cancer in 1985; Bob Keeshan, better known as television's Captain Kangaroo, and a panel of medical experts.
Reynolds, an ardent smoking opponent testifying on behalf of the American Lung Association, said his father, Richard J. Reynolds, 'died from emphysema after years of heavy smoking.'
Reynolds, who said he sold his tobacco company stock years ago and claimed he is not estranged from his family over his militant anti-smoking stance, called cigarette advertising 'the single biggest lie perpetrated on the American people.'
'To allow continued advertising of cigarettes when they are proven killers is plainly immoral,' Reynolds said.
Brynner was among several witnesses disputing tobacco company claims that the more than $2 billion spent a year on advertising is intended to get people to switch brands rather than hook new smokers. She also showed a public service announcement videotaped by her father that was aired after he died.
'Now that I'm gone, I tell you: Don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke,' the late actor warns.