Family deaths motivate him to take on lobbyists, industry

OGDEN — Patrick Reynolds envisions a world free of tobacco smoke — a world where parents won’t die prematurely from that smoke, where teenagers will no longer be targeted by the tobacco advertising industry, a world where people live a happy, healthy, smoke-free life.

Those are funny thoughts, coming from a man whose grandfather founded one of the largest tobacco companies in the world.

To Reynolds, though, there’s nothing funny about tobacco. His father, R.J. Reynolds Jr., inherited the business and, ironically, died from a smoking-related illness, as did Patrick’s older brother, R.J. Reynolds III.

” Every time I saw my father he was sicker and sicker,” Reynolds said. “What made him so wealthy ended up killing him, and that has a lot to do with me turning my back on the tobacco industry.”

Reynolds was the keynote speaker during the 14th annual Heart and Vascular Outreach Symposium at McKay-Dee Hospital. He said that one of the biggest problems in passing anti-tobacco laws stems from political campaign donations.

” If passed by Congress, the FDA would be able to restrict tobacco advertising, impede sales to minors, reduce or eliminate harmful chemicals in tobacco like ammonia, ban candy and fruit flavorings in cigarettes and require full disclosure of ingredients,” Reynolds said. “But these tobacco industries are donating a lot of money to candidates and that really concerns me. No industry gives away that much money without wanting something in return.”

Concerned about the consequences of smoking, Reynolds made the decision to speak out against the industry his family helped build. He became the first tobacco industry figure to do so in 1986. The following year, he testified before Congress, helping to bring about the present ban of smoking on all U.S. domestic airline flights.

” I was thrust into the spotlight and I decided to commit myself to having smoking banned in public places,” he said. “Second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death with 53,000 people dying every year. By 2010, if we don’t get a hold on this, 10 million people on this planet will be dead from smoking-related diseases.”

Reynolds said many states are catching on, however. As of April 2005, seven states have passed 100 percent statewide smoking bans. The law provides for smoke-free restaurants, bars, nightclubs and all other workplaces.

Reynolds is also in favor of a tobacco tax increase, which he said would lower the number of youth smokers, a major group that he wants to target.

” One of the most secret forms of advertising geared toward youth is the fact that cigarettes sit right on top of the counter right next to the candy bars,” he said. “Do you know that stores are paid to have countertop cigarettes?”

Reynolds told health care workers not to give up on their smoking patients. “I failed 11 times before I finally got it right, so please don’t give up on them when they say they’ve tried and they can’t quit,” he said. “I know I’m doing the right thing and I know that my vision of a smoke-free society is coming.”

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