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Article published October 26, 2006

Reynolds relative blasts firm for smoking lobbying

By JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU


COLUMBUS — The grandson of the founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. yesterday blasted his namesake company for bankrolling an effort to etch smoking protections into Ohio’s constitution.

“I am shocked by the new low that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has hit,” said Patrick Reynolds. “I feel that my grandfather, as much as he did to market and popularize smoking of cigarettes, is spinning in his grave with what they are doing now.”

Standing in a prenatal clinic at the Columbus Public Health Department, he said Richard Joshua (R.J.) Reynolds did not know the dangers of smoking when he founded the North Carolina-based company in 1875. Since then, the founder’s son, R.J. Reynolds Jr., and a grandson, R.J. Reynolds III, have died from emphysema.

Patrick Reynolds quit smoking in 1985 after 11 failed attempts and eventually became an anti-tobacco crusader. He severed financial ties with what was once his grandfather’s company in 1979.

The maker of such cigarette brands as Winston, Camel, and Salem has pledged $40 million this year to thwart ballot issues dealing with indoor smoking bans and higher cigarette taxes in multiple states. “Why do they do this? Because they want to protect their future profits,” Mr. Reynolds said. “They know that 14 states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws which eliminate smoking 100 percent in all bars and all restaurants. They know that nine nations have done this from border to border ...”

“In short, we are reaching a tipping point,” he said. “R.J. Reynolds sees a tidal wave of smoking laws coming on them and coming on them fast ... They’ve decided to fight back and they’re fighting back with a vengeance.”

Tobacco companies, led predominantly by R.J. Reynolds, have largely underwritten the current campaign pushed by the hospitality industry to convince voters to approve Issue 4, an alternative smoking ban offered in direct response to Issue 5, a near-total ban on smoking in indoor public places.

“In all due respect to Mr. Reynolds, this is an Ohio issue that will be decided by Ohio voters, of whom Mr. Reynolds is not,” said Jacob Evans, Issue 3 spokesman and lobbyist for the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association. “Most Ohioans support a reasonable, common-sense approach.”

Issue 5, pushed by the American Cancer Society and other health organizations, allows for few exemptions to its ban while the weaker Issue 4 would allow smoking in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, racetracks, bingo halls, and any business that places itself off limits to minors.

If voters approve both on Nov. 7, Issue 4, a constitutional amendment, would trump Issue 5, an initiated statute, as well as stronger existing laws in Columbus, Toledo, Bowling Green, and 18 other cities. It would also prohibit passage of any new law considered stronger than the constitutional language.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.