(Des Moines, IA) Democrat presidential candidate Bill Bradley Tuesday questioned rival Al Gore’s committment to the fight against big tobacco, and cited a vote Gore took over a decade ago — a vote which helped defeat a measure Bradley was advancing.

“I fought against big tobacco for 18 years in the United States Senate. It’s something I’ve been very consistent on. I remember that vote very well because it’s an amendment that I offered that was an amendment that would have prevented Medicare premiums from going up and off-setting that with tobacco taxes, and I lost by two votes, so you remember who you lost to,” Bradley said during a news conference.

Gore has said his sister’s death from cancer prompted him to re-think his position, and now he supports crack-downs on tobacco-makers. Bradley said Gore needs to re-explain himself, and why he once voted in favor of cigarette-makers’ interests.

“If you believe something over time, and you feel deeply about it, then you have to be consistent over time, and I’ve been consistent over time with regard to tobacco and I think this illustrates he hasn’t,” Bradley said.

Bradley, who has offered himself as a different style of candidate who eschews negative campaign attacks, went so far as to question whether Gore was “leveling with people” on the subject.

“This is a matter of measuring intensity, and there is no question for me that I see this as a primary helath issue in this country,” Bradley said in the news conference, held after Bradley spoke with an elementary school assembly about the evils of smoking.

Gore dismissed Bradley’s statements as a negative attack made in “desperation.” A recent Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” showed Gore 21 points ahead of Bradley.