FARMINGTON -- Patrick Reynolds hit a key on a laptop computer and
a picture of his grandfather, the tobacco titan R.J. Reynolds,
appeared on a projector screen for sixth -through-eighth-grade
students at Tibbetts Middle School to see.
R.J. Reynolds founded a tobacco company "whose products would go
on to kill millions of people and make my family very powerful and
very rich," said Patrick Reynolds, now the President of The
Foundation for a Smoke-free America.
Reynolds, a professional speaker, will
make presentations in San Juan County until Friday.
Reynolds said he divested his company stock in 1978 and only has
"a little family money."
When asked how his family felt about the message he delivers,
"Some of them don't like it very much," he said.
Reynolds began his presentation by telling the students a story
of growing up without knowing his father for years and then getting
a chance to meet him.
"There was my dad, lying on his back, dying," he said.
According to a press release, R.J. Reynolds Jr. died of emphysema
attributed to his years of smoking.
"Cigarettes are addicting, once you start smoking, you cannot
stop," said Reynolds, who smoked for 19 years before quitting
According to Reynolds, the average smoker uses tobacco for 17
years and 95 of every 100 users who want to quit reuse within a
year. That number becomes 85 if a smoking cessation program is
After delivering the statistics, Reynolds asked the students to
raise their hands if they had seen someone their own age smoke
cigarettes in the last seven days.
More than half of the children raised their hand.
"I'm angry, I'm sad and I'm a little bit afraid," Reynolds said
of the results of his informal poll.
He then encouraged students who had not experimented with tobacco
or drugs to not tempt fate.
"You will get hooked, mark my words," he said.
Throughout the presentation, Reynolds criticized movies and
cigarette advertisers for attempting to make smoking look cool and
especially for appealing to young people.
He noted $15 billion is spent annually to advertise cigarettes
and that tobacco companies used to pay stores for counter-top
displays that were at eye-level for kids, with the thought that they
would frequently get stolen. He added companies were known to
reimburse the stores for any losses incurred from theft.
"They were keeping it in our kids' face where it was easy to
steal," he said, noting the children would get hooked and become
purchasers of tobacco.
When criticizing advertisers, Reynolds noted the use of
attractive young adults and the recent trend of using candy flavors
in cigarettes led him to believe the companies were targeting young
"Come get your red hot tobacco, and get hooked, why don't you,"
During the presentation, Reynolds repeatedly asked the audience
questions and walked into the bleachers to get responses.
The most interaction came during the story of Shawn Marsee, a
17-year-old high school athlete who used chewing tobacco with his
teammates. After a talk with his mom, he tried to quit, but
couldn't, according to Reynolds.
Marsee eventually developed a red sore on his tongue,
approximately the size of a half-dollar, which was later found to be
Marsee had a portion of his tongue removed, then a portion of his
jaw and later, his neck.
Reynolds paused during his story, and looked at a projected photo
of Marsee at age 17, before changing to one of him in a hospital
gown, wearing his track pins, after surgery. The bottom of his face
was seemingly featureless, with no visible jaw line.
"Ewwwww," the students responded loudly.
Marsee was 19 years old in the photo. Shortly after it was taken,
he died of cancer attributed to his practice of dipping tobacco.
After telling the Marsee story, Reynolds switched gears and spoke
of the future. He told the students they would face many choices and
options in their lives on their way to success.
"You will need your health in those fantastic, wonderful years
that lie ahead," Reynolds said, adding he had faith the students
before him would choose not to use tobacco.
"Catch my faith and make a wise, intelligent choice," he
Lindsay Pierce/The Daily Times
There was my dad, lying on his back,
dying, said Patrick Reynolds, left, with a photo of his father,
R.J. Reynolds Jr., who died of emphysema attributed to years of
smoking, projected on the wall of the gymnasium at Tibbetts Middle
School on Tuesday afternoon. Patrick, heir to the second-largest
tobacco manufacturing company in the United States, is now the
President of The Foundation for a Smoke-free America, delivering
smoke-free messages to students across the country.
8:45 a.m. today at Heights Middle School, 3700 College
Farmington (open to the public).
10:15 a.m. today at Rocinante, 3250 E. 30th St., Farmington.
9:30 a.m. Thursday at Hermosa Middle School, 1500 E. 25th St.,
Farmington (open to the public).
2 p.m. Mesa Alta, 329 Bergin Lane, Bloomfield (open to the
8:30 a.m., Friday reception at Kirtland Middle School, 538 CR
6100, Kirtland, to meet Reynolds, followed at 9 a.m. by a Town Hall
meeting and by a presentation at 9:45 a.m.
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