By Sarah Crooks Clancy

How does it make you feel to know that tobacco companies are contributing millions of dollars to political campaigns? How does it make you feel to know that they’re actively targeting teens with their advertising?

That’s what Patrick Reynolds asked his audience Wednesday afternoon during The Rapides Foundation’s public kickoff to its new “Get Healthy Cenla” Initiative.

The foundation narrowed its focus for 2008 — challenging community organizations to improve the health of Central Louisiana residents with an emphasis on diet, physical activity and tobacco use.

And no wonder.

One in four Central Louisiana adults smoke. That’s 24.9 percent higher than the national average. And smokeless tobacco use is at 8.5 percent, nearly twice the national average.

That’s where Reynolds comes in. He’s the grandson of tobacco-company founder R.J. Reynolds.

But Patrick Reynolds didn’t go into the family business. Instead, he became an anti-smoking advocate after watching his father and brother die from cigarette-induced emphysema and lung cancer.

“When I saw my father for the first time after my parents’ divorce, I was 9 and he was gasping for breath from asthma, dying from the product that made us wealthy.”

Since 1986, he’s spoken out against the tobacco industry, pushing for higher cigarette taxes, clean air bills and tobacco prevention programs as executive director and founder of the Foundation for a Tobaccofree Earth.

Yesterday, he talked to a group of community health and nonprofit leaders.

Today, he’ll talk to hundreds of school children about tobacco’s dangers.

“If you look at the causes of death in the United States and Central Louisiana and you’re a health foundation, you have to take on the tobacco issue,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of the Rapides Foundation.

“In the past, everything we called an ‘initiative’ was a priority issue with a bucket of money attached,” Rosier said. “We’re pushing this a little bit more.”

To find out how your group can participate, you can attend one of the upcoming Community Forums or visit

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