was three when my parents divorced, and for years I didn't
see my Dad. When I was nine I wrote him a letter. He was
traveling, but my little letter was forwarded from place
to place and by some miracle eventually reached him. Touched,
he sent for me. When the big moment finally came and I
was shown into his room, I was stunned to find him lying
down, sandbags on his chest to help strengthen his breathing.
My only memories of my father,
R.J. Reynolds, Jr., are of a man short of breath, increasingly
sick and frail, and counting the time he had left to live.
When I was 15 he died of emphysema brought on by a lifetime
addiction to 'the family brands,' cigarettes made by the
second largest producer of tobacco products, the R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co. My eldest brother, R.J. Reynolds,
III died prematurely of tobacco-related illness and I
have since lost an uncle and aunt to smoking.
In 1979, I began to take action
and to research the broader issues involved in tobacco
use. I sold all my tobacco stock, realizing I could no
longer benefit from a product responsible for hundreds
of thousands of preventable deaths every year. More difficult
than divestment was the struggle to break my own pack-a-day
addiction. It took me until 1985, after a dozen attempts
in as many years.
In 1986, I began to speak
out publicly on the evils of tobacco use. As a grandson
of R.J. Reynolds, I was given the opportunity to present
testimony before a U.S. Congressional hearing on
cigarette advertising. I was overwhelmed by the response.
Requests for interviews and speeches poured in from around
the country and abroad.
In 1989 I chartered The Foundation
for a Smokefree America, in
which I eventually invested nearly half my inheritance.
The Foundation stresses the complicity of government in
allowing the tobacco industry to influence tax and advertising
policy via extensive campaign contributions. More concretely,
it advocates four immediate measures: 1) An outright ban
on cigarette advertising, 2) More explicit warning labels
on tobacco products, 3) Increased taxes--the U.S. has the lowest cigarette
tax in the industrialized world, and
4) Raising the legal smoking age. I am seeking
funding to establish the Foundation with paid staff and
to finance speaking tours.
Often people ask me about
the irony of biting the hand that fed me, to which I reply:
if the hand that fed me is the tobacco industry, that
same hand has killed millions of people. And the industry
is showing no signs of stopping on its
own. For a brief period in my early 20's I changed
my name from Reynolds. I've come to realize that my name
is a very great asset, and I am proud to use its power
to help bring about a smokefree
- Patrick Reynolds
c/o Foundation for a Smokefree America
505 S. Beverly Dr., Suite 1000
Hills, CA 90212
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