Anti-smoking advocate denounces family ties to the tobacco industry

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Patrick Reynolds, anti-smoking advocate

Tampa, Florida — In the school auditorium at Middleton High Wednesday morning, Patrick Reynolds took the stage, microphone in hand, and began telling his story.

Patrick Reynolds, anti-smoking advocate
“ My only memories of my father were of him dying from smoking, that's why I go against my heritage, to encourage (kids) to be tobacco free. ”

It's a 180-degree departure from what his family is known for around the country. Reynolds is the grandson of tobacco company founder R. J. Reynolds. After seeing how the addictive habit affected the health of smokers, he launched and now tours the country talking with students. And he gave up his stock in the company.

Patrick Reynolds, anti-smoking advocate
“I have zero affiliation with the tobacco industry, they don't like me very much, let's be clear about that. ”

Reynolds says most smokers started lighting up before age 14. And when he asked the group 'how many know teens who smoke', more than a few hands went up. Jerrica Whitehead does not, but knows plenty who do.

Jerrica Whitehead, 17-years-old
“I think it's stupid, especially when they start so young, they don't look at the it's harming them. Both my parents smoke, both my mom and dad cough, and I don't want them to be hurt any more than I want myself to be hurt, or my best friend (to be hurt).”

De Anna Sheffield, Tampa Bay's 10 News