By Zach Wesley – Journal Correspondent
POCATELLO – Patrick Reynolds has spent much of the last two decades speaking out against the industry that brought his family a massive fortune and public prominence.
His grandfather, R.J. Reynolds, was a founder of the tobacco company that produces popular cigarette brands Camel and Winston. But after the deaths of his father and eldest brother to smoking-related illnesses, Patrick Reynolds turned against the family business.
Reynolds said he sold his stock in the company in 1979 and has never looked back.
He will be telling his family’s story and delivering an anti-smoking message at Idaho State University on Wednesday. Reynolds’ appearance is sponsored by the ISU Program Board, the ISU Wellness Center and Southeast District Health Department.
“The talk is part education, part motivation and hopefully part entertaining,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds founded the nonprofit group Foundation for a Tobaccofree Earth in 1989. The foundation operates the anti-smoking Web sites www.tobaccofree.org and www.notobacco.org. Reynolds said the group is funded primarily from his public speaking engagements – like the event at ISU – at middle schools, high schools and colleges.
“My dad died from smoking and the two things went together,” Reynolds said. “I got more and more involved and made it a career.”
The tobacco industry first heard from Reynolds in the 1980s. He said he has testified before Congress, lobbied to raise tobacco taxes and worked to ban cigarette vending machines.
However, Reynolds does not believe the tobacco industry is the only party responsible for the ill effects of smoking. He believes smokers share the responsibility.
What he does blame the tobacco industry for are youth-oriented marketing campaigns. He cites a study stating that from 1988 to 1998 youth smoking increased 73 percent. He said cigarette ads featuring Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man were part of the tobacco industry’s plan to market directly to young people.
Many of Reynolds’ speaking engagements are at middle and high schools, and he said he initiates the audience into adulthood by having them promise to be smoke-free.
“It helps motivate the young people to stay smoke free,” Reynolds said.
At ISU, Reynolds said he will speak out against the tobacco industry, but also plans to motivate the audience to remain smoke-free as well as instruct the audience on helping parents and friends who smoke to quit.
Reynolds will also share the story of Sean Marsee, who died at age 19 from the effects of chewing tobacco. Reynolds will show before-and-after photos of Marsee’s disfigured face from chewing tobacco use.
When and where
– Who: Patrick Reynolds “The Truth Behind BIG Tobacco.”
– When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
– Where: Ballroom of the Student Union Building.
– Cost: Free for students, $3 for faculty/staff and $5 for the general public.