RED BLUFF - One of the nation's most outspoken opponents of the tobacco industry was in Red Bluff recently to speak at a youth summit to urge local junior high and high school students to stay away from legal drugs.

Patrick Reynolds, a grandson of tobacco company founder R. J. Reynolds, has been on the forefront of legislation and education on the dangers of tobacco, ironically after products produced by his family's brand led to cancer and the deaths of his father and oldest brother.

Speaking to a large group of students who packed the Red Bluff Community and Senior Center recently. Reynolds, spoke bluntly about the effects of chewing tobacco and dipping.

He told the story of a young man named Sean Marsee, whose life was cut short after an addiction to snuff caused him to lose most of his lip and tongue and finally his life.

"Don't dip snuff' was Sean's last message to those his own age who may want to experiment with snuff," said Reynolds. He talked about how Marsee was a bright and responsible person, athletic and a good student.

He showed the students a picture of Marsee after his face was ravaged with cancer. Reynolds told the group to learn how to deal with pain.

"Too many adults hide from it; they fall into legal drugs," said Reynolds. "Don't run from it, don't turn to drugs, or alcohol, or food."

Students attending the summit, which was called "I am Somebody," came from Red Bluff Union High School, Sacramento River Discovery Charter School, RBUHS Campus West, Salisbury High School and Centennial High School in Corning,

"The summit is an opportunity for local youth to come together and realize that they have the power to make significant changes in their school, community and life," said Tina Zastrow, Friday Night Live coordinator. "It is based on the Friday Night Live vision of, I kept looking for somebody to solve the problems, and then I realized, I am somebody."

Reynolds has testified before Congress about the dangers of smoking and is the founder of the Foundation for a Smokefree America. He is a well-known author, speaker and advocate.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once described him as, "one of the nation's most influential advocates of a Smokefree America."

Garrett Woodward, 15, is a ninth-grade student at Sacramento River Discovery School. Woodward has participated in over 38 leadership activities for Friday Night Live.

"Tobacco companies make it look like it is something cool, like it is okay," said Woodward. "I think that Reynolds' message is to never start and if you do, to quit today."

Woodward said there are many things that lead his peers to legal drugs but that he hopes he can be a good impression to those around him.

"I would have to say you need to quit. My friends and family are special to me," he said. "I don't want to lose them and feel sorry for something that can be prevented."

Tehama County Associate Superintendent of Schools Larry Champion was very impressed with Reynolds' message.

"What a gift to have this message brought to us by Patrick Reynolds. I can only echo the thoughts of the surgeon general." said Champion.

He added that he hopes that the students will take the message to heart.

The summit also included messages from youth leaders, law enforcement and prevent personnel. A presentation using the fatal vision goggles was also given, which allows students to experience first-hand the change of perception when one becomes intoxicated.

The summit was sponsored by Tehama County Health Services - Public Health Division, Tehama County Department of Education and Tehama Friday Night Live.