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View video clip 6, Initiation into Life

HIS FATHER'S DEATH Reynolds opens by telling the touching story of his father’s death, caused by smoking Reynolds brands, when Patrick was 15.

INITIATION In an informal revival of the ancient, near-universally practiced tradition, Mr. Reynolds initiates students into life. During the talk, he opens students’ eyes to some of the darkness in the world, such as tobacco companies marketing to youth, and the influence of the tobacco industry over our government. Toward the end, he adds, "Life will sometimes be painful -- it's designed to be that way. It's by our struggles against adversity that we gather strength. It's by staying with the difficulty that we resolve the problem -- not by escaping into one or more of our national addictions, like cigarettes, food, alcohol, drugs, TV, music, or work. Stay with the problem, talk about it to others, take a step to solve it -- and move on." The initiation concludes by welcoming students into the world of adults.

WHERE WE WON AND LOST AGAINST BIG TOBACCO Our greatest progress has come from local governments, which have passed hundreds of 100% smoking bans, vending machine bans and sales-to-minors compliance checks. And the Judicial Branch of government won a settlement of $246 billion from the States' lawsuits.

But for three decades, Congress has done almost nothing to regulate Big Tobacco. And few State Legislatures have passed 100% Statewide smoking bans, as California did. Only five states have met the CDC’s minimum recommended amount for an effective youth tobacco prevention campaign, to duplicate Florida’s incredible 47% reduction in middle school smoking. The initiation theme recurs here: there is some darkness in the world.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM For more than thirty years, Congress has passed not one bill making it harder for children to purchase cigarettes, no law to limit cigarette advertising, no substantial increase in the Federal tobacco tax, and no Federal workplace smoking law.

"I believe the primary reason for Congress' stunning leniency on Big Tobacco has been our system of campaign finance," says Reynolds. He points out, "The large corporations have amassed truly awesome power over our government. Indeed, there is darkness in the world. Opponents of campaign finance reform within

Congress sued in April, 2002 to undo the bill, on the grounds that it violates Freedom of Speech. The case will be decided by the Supreme Court. The fight to reign in the political influence of the tobacco industry hangs in the balance, as does the public mandate to bring other excessively powerful special interests to heel."

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Should the First Amendment continue to protect tobacco advertising? Should the Supreme Court undo recently passed Campaign Finance Reform, as a violation of free speech? Mr. Reynolds argues no on both, and students are invited to challenge him in the Q & A session.

SPEAK FROM THE HEART In this fun section, Mr. Reynolds requests a volunteer from the audience, and asks them to rehearse expressing their feelings to a loved one, asking them to quit or not smoke in the house. He offers a simple but persuasive formula for saying no. Students learn to be more in touch with their emotions, to speak about their feelings, and become more effective communicators. Throughout his talk, as he discusses smoking by stars in movies, and tobacco advertising that targets women, teens, blacks, and impoverished Third World peoples, he asks, “How do you feel about that? I feel angry and sad. . .”

ADVERTISING: TARGETING YOUTH and women, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and uneducated peoples in the Third World. Mr. Reynolds opens students' eyes to the truth about tobacco advertising. At one point he asks, “How many of you know that when you go in a convenience store, the store is getting paid up to $100 per month per display to keep its tobacco displays in full view?” Nearly no hands go up. “As a child, you probably assumed the store put the display on countertops because tobacco is a normal, acceptable American product. They’re at child eye level, often placed next to the candy, and because they face away from the cashier, it’s often far too easy for kids to shoplift. The tobacco industry increased their advertising from $5 billion to $8 billion in 2000, and much of that is spent on countertop displays. How do you feel about that?


Sean Marsee at age 17

At age 19,
just prior to his death

Photos courtesy of The American Cancer Society and the Marsee family

In a compelling and dramatic section of his talk, Mr. Reynolds tells the tragic story of Sean Marsee, and shows heartbreaking before and after photos of the high school track star. Sean died disfigured, sad and in pain at age 19, from mouth cancer caused by chewing tobacco. It is a powerful part of his talk.

THE LAWSUITS Many people feel smokers should be accountable for the disease they bring on themselves by continuing to smoke. “Yes, of course smokers should be accountable,” Reynolds responds. “But does that mean we should let the tobacco industry go unaccountable for their portion of the responsibility? For years, they claimed publicly, 'It's never been proven that cigarettes cause disease.' The CEOs denied under oath that nicotine was addictive, when they knew it was. If a corporation knows its products are dangerous, but hides, dissembles, stonewalls and denies, as they did, then they must pay the damages for their share in the problem.

SMOKING IS MY PERSONAL CHOICE As to the choice to smoke, eighty to ninety percent of US smokers became addicted before reaching age 19, and this product is as addicting as heroin. It's our children who made the choice to smoke. The truth is, once they are addicted, there is far less choice involved. And the first step in overcoming any addiction is to admit you have one, so don’t buy their tobacco industry spin.

SEPTEMBER 11th At talks since 9/11/01, Mr Reynolds has asked numerous audiences from age 9 to 24, “After September 11th, how many of you are worried about the future?” A susbstantial percentage of the students have raised their hands. To counteract the recent upsurge in anxiety among students, Mr. Reynolds offers a message of hope for the future. He concludes his presentation with an inspiring five minute section, in which he shares his own strong faith that everything will be okay. At the finish, he urges students, "Hold on to your health, for the incredible future that’s coming. Don't smoke, and don't use drugs, because you'll need your health, every bit of it, in the amazing and wondrous years ahead!" Mr. Reynolds closes his talk with the promise of the coming tobaccofree society. "It's coming because of you," he says. "You are the future."

Q & A SESSION And if desired, a reception following.


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