By Courtney Cavanaugh Staff writer
Community Unit District 200 high school students got
an insider's look at the dangers of smoking and tobacco
use when Patrick Reynolds, grandson of tobacco producer
R.J. Reynolds, visited the district's two high schools
The Reynolds family's cigarette brands, Camel and
Winston, killed Reynolds' eldest brother and father,
causing him to devote his time to educating people about
the dangers of smoking. Reynolds, who first spoke out
before Congress in 1986, is the first tobacco industry
figure to speak out against cigarettes.
His appearance at Wheaton North and Wheaton
Warrenville South high schools is sponsored by Central
DuPage Hospital and the DuPage Coalition Against
Tobacco. Other sponsors include the DuPage County Health
Department, the Cancer Institute of Alexian Brothers
Hospital Network, the American Cancer Society and
Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare.
Joan Burtnette, department chair of Community Unit
School District 200 nurses, said many kids start smoking
at a young age, and the anti-smoking message is one that
can never be heard too early.
"It's a message that needs to be heard over and over
again," she said. "Tobacco's not going away in a hurry.
They continue to promote and advertise and reach people.
So, as long as that continues to happen, we need to get
the message out there that tobacco is (harmful)."
Reynolds also appeared at several DuPage County high
schools, speaking to about 3,200 young people.
The DuPage County Health Department and Central
DuPage Hospital, along with the American Cancer Society,
presented the event as part of national Kick Butts Day
Renee Kosiarek, who has lost family members to lung
cancer, and Dr. Jeffry Huml, a pulmonologist at CDH,
also spoke about the dangers of tobacco product use.
Reynolds, who didn't live with his father, recalled
the first time he met him as a child, and how his father
was having trouble breathing. He asked his dad about it
and he told him it was asthma, but his father ended up
eventually dying from emphysema when Reynolds was 16, he
"If I could give you one message today, it would be
that cigarettes are addicting," he said. "Once you
start, you can't stop."
He said it only takes two weeks for people to become
addicted, and many try to quit, but attempts with the
aid of patches and gum all fail. And the habit is not
only deadly but expensive.
"Hello!" he said. "There's a lot better things to do
with your money than to spend $1,200 on tobacco a
Reynolds told students how they can approach the
subject of quitting smoking with those they love, saying
second-hand smoking causes lung cancer and heart
Then he had one WWS student bring a friend out of the
audience, someone she said she would like to see stop
smoking. He showed the students how to begin with a
compliment, so as to open the lines of communication,
and use feeling words such as "sad" and "afraid."
"Kids whose parents smoke in the house have more
bronchial problems and asthma," he said. "It's
Reynolds ended his presentation with a story that
made many of the students gasp.
He told the story of an Oklahoma high school track
star named Sean Marsee, who began using chewing tobacco
at age 12, and tried to quit but continually failed.
The whole time Reynold's told Sean's story — how he
developed tongue cancer and had to have his tongue
amputated; how his cancer came back and he had to have
part of his jaw and nose removed; and how he had to have
a hole cut in his neck and a breathing tube inserted —
he showed a school portrait of the handsome, young
He ended the discussion with a photo of Sean Marsee
before his death at the age of 19, looking very
different from the first photo, attached to machines and
breathing apparatuses, and clinging to life.
"I'm grossed out right now, cause I play sports," WWS
freshman Kyle Cassin said at the conclusion of the
program. "It just freaks me out. It's like, 'No
WWS freshman Jay Dragon said he would never smoke,
adding his mom used to smoke, but she quit.
"I felt glad (when she quit) because I thought her
health would fail and I would lose her," he said."
Nancy Eismon, a registered nurse with CDH, said she
hopes the program helps the students, and helps them
with friends and family members who smoke.
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