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Friday, October 10, 2003

Tobacco baron's grandson: Don't start smoking


z The anti-smoking advocate told 1,400 Jay County students that 60 percent of all smokers begin at age 14.

PORTLAND - The grandson of one of America's most famous tobacco barons delivered a point-blank message to about 1,400 Jay County students at the high school Thursday - don't start smoking.

About 60 percent of all smokers begin at age 14, and almost no one starts after the age of 19. About 3,000 teenagers get hooked on smoking every day, and of those new smokers, about 1,000 a day will die from smoking, according to anti-smoking advocate Patrick Reynolds, grandson of R.J. Reynolds.

"Too many kids are addicted to tobacco," said Wood Barwick, Jay County High School principal. "A lot of kids use tobacco in Jay County."

Reynolds's message was often blunt, but he discussed one touchy issue with great sensitivity - how to ask your parents to quit smoking.

It's OK to be a pest about smoking indoors because that is your business, he said. Second-hand smoke is known to be harmful.

"But three times a year is all you can ask a person to quit," he said. "Nagging is ineffective."

Ryan Brotherton, 17, said he found Reynolds's program "informative."

"It gave me ideas how to handle it with smokers at home," he said. "My dad has tried to quit a few times."

Alicia Miller, 15, called the presentation "cool." She, too, said the program would help her deal with the issue at home.

"I'm going to ask Dad to smoke outside," she said.

Tyler Rigby, 16, said no one in his family nor any of his friends smoke, and he "plans to keep it that way."

Reynolds was optimistic about the future.

"In your lifetime, I believe there will be a tobacco-free society," he told the those in the packed gym. "No more dying from tobacco."

All Jay students in grades 9-12 attended the program, and grades 6-8 from West Jay Middle School attended, according to Barwick.

Becoming an anti-smoking advocate did not affect Reynolds's inheritance he said, but "it has affected my financial status because my family disagrees with us."

He now works with the Foundation for a Smoke Free America, based in Los Angeles, Calif. His appearance in Jay County was sponsored by the Jay County Tobacco Free Coalition and Jay County Hospital.

Contact Jay and Blackford county reporter Ric Routledge at (765) 728-5241.

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