By ANNIE ROBINSON
Tribune Staff Writer
SOUTH BEND — The grandson of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds is now one of the country’s most passionate advocates for a smoke-free society.
Patrick Reynolds presented a talk called “Tobacco Wars: The Battle for a Smoke Free Society” on Wednesday night in the University of Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall auditorium.
The talk was sponsored by Notre Dame’s Office of Alcohol and Drug Education, IRISHealth, and the Healthy Communities Initiative of St. Joseph County.
A former smoker himself, Reynolds is the founder of the nonprofit Foundation for a Tobaccofree Earth and gives anti-smoking speeches across the country.
“I want to help keep our youth from becoming addicted to tobacco,” he told the audience.
Reynolds recalled being a 9-year-old boy and watching his own father suffer from emphysema.
“There he was, dying from the product that made his family rich,” he said. “That had a lot to do with why I decided to turn my back on the tobacco industry.”
Reynolds has lost his father, eldest brother and other relatives to smoking-related diseases.
Since 1986, Reynolds has testified before Congress and has lobbied governments to raise cigarette taxes, toughen anti-smoking laws and reduce national tobacco advertising.
“The more I learned about the tobacco industry, the more disturbed I became,” he said.
Reynolds said he is most concerned with a what he sees as a dangerous trend. He said many states have reduced funding for tobacco prevention programs to sums below the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reynolds stressed the need for those numbers to change dramatically, particularly in Indiana. He said the direct correlation between increased funding for prevention programs and decreased smoking rates is reason enough.
“We are going to have a smoke- free society,” Reynolds told the audience. “Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week. But I believe it’s coming in your lifetime.”
“He gave a compassionate and compelling speech. He’s very encouraging,” said Dr. Alan Snell, medical director of clinical informatics for St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and chairman of the Healthy Communities Initiative executive committee.
Snell is a prominent anti-smoking advocate on the local level. He pushed the medical center and Memorial Hospital to ban smoking on their campuses. Both hospitals agreed this past year to become completely smoke free on Jan. 1, 2004.