Rendez-vous with . . . Patrick Reynolds
Foundation for a Smokefree America
Los Angeles, California , USA
By Philippe Boucher
Monday, May 21 , 2001
PB: Thank you Patrick for accepting our rendez-vous.
May I ask you to introduce yourself?
Patrick Reynolds: Hi, I'm Patrick Reynolds. Some readers will know of me as the grandson of R.J. Reynolds who first spoke out publicly against the tobacco industry in 1986, following my father's death from smoking. In 1989, I founded the Foundation for a Smokefree America. What's less known about me is that I'm a motivational speaker, mostly at middle schools and high schools. I also speak to college students, a much overlooked target population. I've enjoyed doing this work, and hope I've made a difference. In 2000, we released a new educational video of my live assembly program for grades 7-12. We also offer the websites www.tobaccofree.org for adults and school personnel, and http://www.notobacco.org for teens.
Q1. Can you tell us about how you decided to become a tobacco control advocate, and a very vocal one in the public arena?
PR: When I was a little boy of three, my parents were divorced. Upon being reunited with my father six years later, I was saddened to find him lying down, with sandbags on his chest. In those days, sandbags were put on the chest to exercise the lungs.
My only memories of my Dad, R.J. Reynolds, Jr., are of a man always short of breath, increasingly sick and frail, and counting the time he had left to live. He died from emphysema, the result of his lifelong cigarette addiction, in 1964, when I was still a boy.
In 1986, during a tour of the capitol, I met Senator Robert Packwood. I mentioned to him that I believed cigarette taxes should be higher. Immediately, he invited me to testify before a Senate subcommittee -- the same day!
I was a bit stunned by this, and declined. But Packwood's invitation made me realize that day that perhaps I could be a voice to wake people up to the dangers of smoking. Back home in Los Angeles, I began looking into the tobacco industry. I didn't know much about it, because no family member had worked in a position of importance at RJ Reynolds in decades.
At that time, I was also getting in touch with some long-buried grief and anger over my father's early death.
Back in LA, I learned from the American Lung Association about the tobacco companies and their marketing practices. I became increasingly disturbed. Finally I agreed to testify before a Congressional hearing on July 18, 1986, as a witness for the ALA. My testimony was widely reported in the media, and overnight, I was catapulted into the spotlight.
I was besieged with requests from local and national health groups to speak, and to campaign for State cigarette tax increases, laws limiting secondhand smoke, laws banning vending machines, and more.
As I answered the call and worked on these various political campaigns, I became increasingly devoted to, and more deeply committed to, the fight against tobacco. In 1989 in Los Angeles, I founded The Foundation for a Smokefree America. I will continue this work and be dedicated to the cause for the rest of my life.
Our movement is composed of many thousands of people, who have all pulled together to bring about the great progress we've made in recent years. I'm pleased to be counted among their ranks.
Q2. You started speaking out publicly against tobacco in 1986 and you are still at it 15 years later. Your recent video was shot in front of a high school audience in a packed auditorium in Texas. You just returned from a similar presentation in Idaho.
How many times have you been invited to speak that way? How many kids have heard your message, and viewed your video? How do they react?
PR: Over the past year, our video, "The Truth about Tobacco," has been bought by over 2,000 schools and libraries. If 500 youth see each video over the next two years, it means that 1 million children will see it. That's very exciting to me.
In recent years, I've spoken live before almost 100,000 students. During Fall and Spring, my calendar is booked with one to four speaking dates a week. Winter and summer are more quiet. My speaking fee includes two assembly programs; clients often add in a third, or even another day or two of talks. The rest of the year, I concentrate on my advocacy work, marketing the live talks and video, and developing the non-profit I founded, The Foundation for a Smokefree America.
It's important to mention that I've financed everything out of my own pocket. To date, our groups have taken no grant money. So we have not drawn on government funds now available to anti-smoking groups. My speaking fees are instead often approved by local hospital community relations directors, or are paid by other groups who know I'll attract local media, and build goodwill for them.
However, that will soon change. We are now looking for one or more grantwriters, and we have several programs in the planning stage. None would involve my own speaking live. The fact is, I look forward to doing less speaking. I've been on the road for too long! Instead, we'll place other speakers into schools around the nation. Marketing and training speakers is something I know quite a good deal about.
One of our Foundation's programs will be to form a tobacco education speakers' website. Schools who want to find good motivational speakers in their region could use this as a free resource to help locate them. We'll screen speakers' videos and resumes, and send out repeated national mailings of glossy postcards, letting appropriate school personnel know about the new speakers' website.
We'll also recruit new tobacco education speakers, by mailing the membership of the National Speakers Association. The website would also direct school personnel to available funding sources. Finally, so that schools can afford our best motivational speakers, we will apply for a grant to pay a portion of, or all of, their fees. Most of the high-end motivational speakers typically get $5000 to $25,000 per talk, but I believe that many speakers will take a substantial reduction in their fees, if they knew they could work more often, and speak for this truly good cause.
I'm aware of the study which says that one-time programs like speakers don't make a difference, and that repeated class follow-up discussions are needed. I began addressing this by giving schools I speak at a teacher's class discussion guide, for follow-up classroom study of the points I cover in my talk (the points are listed at www.tobaccofree.org/patrick.html ). That same study has no doubt kept many good speakers from being placed into schools. The truth is, there is only very limited data on the long term effectiveness of live presentations.
So another grant proposal I'd like to partner on with a reputable university is to do long term follow-up studies at schools where our speakers have presented. We'll see if the rate of smoking among those audiences is lower than the national average. We only need to track participants until age 21; it's statistically unlikely they will start after that.
My feeling is that live presentations would make a difference, in schools where we placed three speakers per year, and provided follow-up materials to teachers for class discussion. Of course we would also track other factors, such as how much funding is being spent in each State, and what kind of other programs they implemented.
Q3. You tell in a very poignant way the story of Sean Marsee who died at 19 because of his tobacco chewing addiction. Snuff is outlawed in most of the EU countries but it is apparently a growing business in the US. Where is the outrage? What should be done?
PR: Telling stories, especially to kids, is one of the most ancient arts, and a great way to get kids to really focus. So I put Sean Marsee's tragic history into story form. It's probably the most dramatic and effective part of my talk, and it captivates audiences. During this section, I show before and after overheads of Sean. When students see him dying in bed at 19, with part of his jaw, neck and nose amputated, there are gasps. The text of the story I tell is posted in full at www.tobaccofree.org/children.html, under the headline, ?Countertop Displays and Dip".
I'm glad to learn snuff is outlawed in most European countries. The Europeans have always understood the common-sense importance of regulation and government intervention. In our country, in my opinion, it's the big corporations, not big government, that we need to worry about.
The outrage is how the tobacco industry re-popularized chewing tobacco, when not long ago, it had all but vanished as a pastime. Two key marketing strategies were placing countertop displays everywhere, and endorsements by baseball players, who of course are role models for young boys.
Today Big Tobacco continues to spend billions annually just on countertop displays. They pay each store around $100 per month for every display stores keep on countertops. These displays make chewing tobacco, as well as cigarettes, look to kids like normal, acceptable, products. They're right on the countertop along with all the other normal products. And they face away from the cashier, and are too easy for children to steal.
At every school I ask, "How many of you know that that stores get paid up to $100 per month for every tobacco display they put on countertops?" In city after city, I see only two or three hands go up, among hundreds. I continue, "Yet since you were this high, and this high, you've seen those displays -- right in your face, where the tobacco is easy to steal, often right next to the candy. Some of you concluded, seeing cigarettes everywhere, that they're just another regular product, like chewing gum or snacks."
What should be done? I feel strongly that all tobacco advertising, which is commercial speech and not private speech, should be banned. But conservative justices in our courts have ruled in recent memory that Freedom of Speech protects tobacco ads. It's notable that liberal justices dissent this idea more often. Another hope for getting rid of countertop displays was dashed in April, when the budget President Bush proposed would essentially defund the Federal government's lawsuit against Big Tobacco (see www.tobaccofree.org/Bush2.html. Our side might have gotten the tobacco industry to end all tobacco advertising, as a deal point in the later settlement of that suit.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~This would be one effective counter to the ubiquitous displays of tobacco which fool millions of kids into thinking cigarettes are a normal, acceptable product.
TV SPOT: ?Countertop Display"
A high-profile awareness campaign is very much needed. Last week, I pitched two new TV spots I penned to Alex Bogusky of Crispin, Porter, Bogusky, and to Sue Richmond of Arnold Communications. These ad agencies handle the national account for the American Legacy Foundation, which produced and aired great ads like "Body Bag" on national television.
The "Countertop Display" spot I wrote would be filmed in a documentary / reality TV style. It shows a teen and his younger brother entering a convenience store. The older one looks at the clerk, points to a tobacco display, and says,
"Mister, how much money does your store get paid every month to keep this display on the countertop?" We see a quick insert shot of little brother, who just tall enough to be nose to nose with the chewing tobacco.
The clerk responds, as though it's perfectly normal, "That one? Oh, about $100 a month. About $80 a month for this one. And that big one up there, well we get around $500 a month for that."
Little brother is astonished: "You get paid money every month for that?"
"Yep," says the clerk, casually cleaning the counter.
Older brother: "I thought you put 'em there cause they're cool."
Clerk: "Are you kidding? These things'll kill ya!"
Little brother: "They will?"
"Yeah ? and the tobacco industry is spending about $4 billion a year to stores like ours, just to keep their displays on countertops."
Little brother: "How come they're next to the candy?"
Cut to a wide shot of the exterior of the store. Fade out.
Below is a second TV spot I proposed to the ad agencies handling the national account for the American Legacy Foundation. I have a new theory which suggests there is one previously unidentified but very significant factor in the enormous increase in teen smoking in the 1990's.
As most of us know, tragically, from 1988 to 1998, there was a huge 73% upsurge in teen smoking, according to the CDC. Many of us are aware that a CDC study suggested that the primary causes were tobacco ads targeting youth, like Joe Camel and the Marlboro man, and a corresponding increase of smoking by stars in movies and TV.
I advanced a new theory concerning a third cause, as a side item in a paper I wrote for the Stanford University Medical Review a year or so ago. I pointed to some 1994 market research by Coca-Cola, which showed that great numbers of young people today suffer from intense anxiety about the future and "an acute sense of diminished expectations." (Time, May 30, 1994) "Today, 50% of children ages 9-17 worry about dying young." (Yankelovitch Partners Study, Time, May 3, 1999)
Believing they face bleak prospects, it's logical that many teens would be much less concerned about taking care of their health. "There's no future ahead, so I may as well smoke / take drugs / drink and party now." I believe this is a third, overlooked reason for the huge 1990's increase in teen smoking, and that this bears further study. Our foundation would like to partner with a university in this.
To confront the new teen pessimism, in my live talk and video, I devote a section to motivating youth to believe more strongly in the future. I share my "rock-solid faith that the future holds incredible things. You're going to need your health, every bit of it, in the great and amazing times ahead -- so don't smoke, don't drink, and don't throw your life away on drugs. Hold on to your health -- for the incredible, wondrous years just ahead of you!"
One spot I envision to address this problem would play best on a big screen, in movie theatres. I submitted it to Alex Bogusky along with the one above. Here's a revised version:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~It's visionary -- but I think it would play well as a trailer in movie theatres, before films. It seems clear that if teens have a stronger outlook about the future, they will be more motivated to take care of their health. If the ad agencies pass, I'll take the concept to Coca-Cola, who have lately run some visionary ads in movie theatres.
TV SPOT: "KEEP THE FAITH"
We're hurtling through outer space. Planet earth appears in the distance, and grows larger. As earth gets closer, we see the outlines of continents and oceans. Suddenly a huge beam of white light hits the earth from offscreen. There is a burst of choral-like sound. We move in still closer, and the incredible white beam continues -- shots looking straight down on North America, then Europe, then Asia, show the white light slowly spreading across the continents.
Down on earth, we see people standing still, faces gazing calmly skyward. We go close on the faces of several races, filled with wonder as the light falls on them. These faces are without fear, and are filled with a quiet peace. Hold on a pair of young people looking up.
Fade up a title: THE FUTURE LOOKS GREAT.
Fade up: SO HOLD ON TO YOUR HEALTH.
Fade up: DON'T SMOKE.
Fade up: AND DON'T DRINK, OR USE DRUGS.
Fade up: YOU'LL NEED YOUR HEALTH IN THE INCREDIBLE YEARS AHEAD.
Q4 . You say to the kids it is very hard to quit so don't start. But what do you say to help people, including young people, quit? What are your best tips as a former smoker who quit, and as a motivational speaker?
PR: I wrote an informational / motivational piece on quitting smoking for our website ( www.tobaccofree.org/quitting.html). I stress to prospective quitters the importance of getting into one or more good programs, and not to try quitting without being in one. I summarize the boilerplate points contained in many mainstream smoking cessation programs. This is what I call Phase I.
I strongly emphasize, however, "Phase II" of quitting, and this is what makes my approach somewhat unique. When I say "Phase II," I'm referring to the period one month to two years after the stop date, when the urge to smoke has greatly diminished, or even died away entirely.
It's in this period that most smokers suddenly get a strong craving, and convince themselves they can have "just one." At that point, they often relapse and go back to smoking. Most quit programs do not emphasize this inevitable pitfall enough.
I went back to smoking 11 times in this way, before finally stopping successfully in 1985. I tell quitters this:
After the urges to smoke have become more and more infrequent, overwhelming surprise attacks are sure to come, a few weeks and months into your new smokefree life. When these nearly out-of-control urges came (and they always engulfed me in unexpected moments) --
I learned that if I did my deep breathing (see www.tobaccofree.org/quitpoints.html), and if I could just hold on for 5 minutes ? the urge would completely pass.
That is by far the single most important thing I learned -- the hard way -- about how to quit successfully.
Because I didn't know this, I failed 11 times. I finally stopped for good on my 12th try, in Spring 1985. It's the key to what has empowered me to stay smokefree for the past sixteen years or so.
Q5. In your video you show anti-tobacco clips of young people making fun and attacking magazines that still take tobacco ads. Is the youth oriented Truth movement beginning to be a significant force? Do you feel its impact among the young people you see, or is it mostly restricted to the states that have poured significant resources into it (Florida, Mississippi, Minnesota)? Is it sustainable?
P R : Florida's tobacco prevention campaign resulted in the most successful effort ever. By early 2000, there had been a 50% reduction in middle school smoking in Florida, largely as a result of their well-funded program. California's program has also been extremely successful.
A preliminary study by Dr. Douglas A. Luke released on 9/28/2000 suggested that stronger State tobacco control policies do result in lower teen smoking rates. States like New York, California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, which have more extensive tobacco control policies, had significantly lower teen smoking rates than States with fewer such policies, such as South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Most of us know that over 99% of the settlement money simply went into each State's general fund, without any requirement to allocate dollars for the kind of tremendously successful youth tobacco prevention programs implemented in Florida. A little under 1%, or $1.45 billion, went to create the new national foundation for tobacco education, the American Legacy Foundation, in Washington DC.
Although the income from the national foundation is expected to be about $300 million per year, the tobacco industry spent $5 billion on advertising in 1998. Then in 1999, they increased it to an astounding $8 billion! (A very large portion of that was used to pay grocery and convenience stores for tobacco displays on their countertops.)
Florida has now cut middle school smoking by 50%. These programs work effectively, but only when they are well funded. More of the Tobacco Settlement should be used to help make up the enormous gap between the $8 billion the tobacco industry spends annually on cigarette advertising, and the few hundred million the American Legacy Foundation, and a handful of States, now have to work with annually.
It's critical that the other States soon allocate more funds for tobacco prevention and education. So our next task is to convince our legislators of this need, and that these programs really do work.
The Campaign for Tobaccofree Kids reports that as of April, 2001, only 17 States have allocated a substantial portion of their Settlement funds to provide tobacco education and cessation programs, according to CDC recommended guidelines. But a majority of these only met the CDC's minimum recommended amounts.
This leads us, inevitably, to a discussion of politics.
In agreeing to the Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco industry attorneys may have considered that the national foundation might make it appear to State legislators as though enough funding for tobacco prevention and education had already been allocated.
In addition there is a mistaken presumption among many politicians that tobacco education programs don't work or are ineffective. To repeat, the Florida programs resulted in a 50% reduction of middle school smoking.
Meanwhile, the tobacco companies have continued an unprecedented binge of political contributions to our politicians, with 88% going to Republicans. Sadly, these campaign contributions by Big Tobacco will no doubt prevent many States from allocating further settlement funds for tobacco education programs. Strong campaign finance reform would do much to correct this problem.
Campaign donations from the tobacco companies are a primary reason that so many States have set aside only a fraction of the funds needed to duplicate Florida's success. Even the Florida House at one point cut the Florida Pilot Program to $0 -- not too long after the tobacco industry donated $450,000 to its members, mostly to Republicans. Funding was partially restored by the Senate, but some advocates have accused Republican Florida governor Jeb Bush of trying to dismantle Florida's program.
Stan Glantz has urged advocates to be more outspoken. I have been outspoken about these issues for many years now, as a private citizen. It's time to speak up more, but I do not wish to continue doing so alone. I hope to be invited to speak by local groups more, to help advocate change, and to shine the spotlight of public attention on those blocking the way.
No politics are contained in my live talks to youth or in our educational video, of course.
With patience and persistence, and with the passage of strong campaign finance reform, advocates can begin to change legislators' minds about the importance of tobacco prevention programs.
We need to present our legislators with the existing scientific proof that these programs work. If lawmakers are shown the well documented studies we already have, our elected officials will have a clear and pressing mandate to fulfill the promise made by all the States as they first embarked on suing Big Tobacco.
At that time, the States all vowed to use a substantial portion of any Settlement money to prevent youth from becoming addicted to tobacco. For a majority of States, it is a promise still waiting to be kept -- and sadly, the real losers here are our children.
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
P R : I'd like to discuss President Bush's proposed budget cut last month of funds to continue the Federal government's lawsuit against Big Tobacco. That bothers me!
In April, President Bush's proposed budget drastically cut funds for the Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. This may result in a $100 billion savings to Big Tobacco.
Medicare and Medicaid are paid 50-50 by the States and the Federal government. Now that the States have recovered $246 billion through their settlement, there is a clear legal precedent for the Federal government to recover its share as well.
It may even be unconstitutional for the executive branch of government to interfere so blatantly with the judicial branch. It's the court system, not Congress, which enabled those who fight tobacco to make their greatest progress.
Many anti-smoking advocates saw Bush's move as a brazen protection of Big Tobacco. Bush has hired several people who have worked closely with the cigarette industry, like chief political strategist Carl Rove. While many of us were dismayed, few in the tobacco control community were very surprised.
According to Common Cause, the tobacco companies gave over $5.37 million in campaign donations in 1999 and 2000 -- with $4.7 million, or 88%, going to Republicans.
Is it really just a coincidence that Bush drastically cut the funding of the Federal lawsuit against Big Tobacco? No corporation gives away millions of dollars without expecting something in return. They got it. Although the Department of Justice lawyers reported they would need $57 million to continue, Bush has offered just $1.8 million.
This budget point, if adopted, would mean the end of the Federal lawsuit.
The best long term remedy, clearly, is strong, uncompromising campaign finance reform. The McCain-Feingold bill has been passed by the Senate, but it now faces a major battle in the House.
It's critically important that advocates call their House Representatives, and urge them to vote for the McCain-Feingold bill -- just as it is, without the watering down it surely faces at the hands of many Republican -- and now some Democratic -- members. After all, Republicans have a big historical advantage in fundraising, and in the past, they have filibustered repeatedly to successfully block campaign reform. And some Democrats are defecting, despite the pleas of the Democratic leadership.
We need to call members in the House in a spare moment, and urge them to vote for the McCain-Feingold bill as is, with no watering down.
Let us turn for a brief moment to the way much of the public perceives the tobacco lawsuits.
Many people feel that smokers should be accountable for the disease and death they bring on themselves by their choice to continue to smoke.
I answer by saying they should, no question -- but does that mean we should let the tobacco industry go unaccountable for its part in causing the problem? They targeted young people in their ad campaigns, they failed to warn of the addictiveness of their products, and for years, they claimed publicly that smoking doesn't cause disease.
As to the 'choice' to smoke, for many, smoking is a nearly unbeatable addiction, and there is far less choice than the tobacco companies have suggested to their customers. Eighty percent of smokers became addicted before reaching age 19, and cigarettes are as addicting as heroin, according to Dr. Koop's report.
Looking at the bigger picture, it's significant that it's not Congress who is bringing Big Tobacco to heel. It's the judicial branch of government, and our local coalitions and municipal governments.
For 30 years, Congress has passed no Federal workplace smoking law, no laws making it harder for kids to buy cigarettes, no limits on tobacco advertising, and no substantial Federal cigarette tax increase. I believe the primary reason for this is our present system of campaign finance and special interest lobbying.
It's ominous that multinationals like Big Tobacco can acquire this much power over our Federal government.
Until campaign finance reform is passed, the court system is our best means of ensuring that fewer of our children become addicted to smoking.
The above points and more are may be seen in greater detail at www.tobaccofree.org/univ.html.
PB: Thank you Patrick for taking the time to be with us today.
Note: Information on Patrick Reynolds' live motivational talks and the educational video, "The Truth about Tobacco," is available at his group's website, www.tobaccofree.org. Teens are invited to drop by www.notobacco.org, which in April was selected by USA Today to be a site-of-the-day. Patrick hopes other anti-smoking groups' websites will add links to one or both of these sites. You may contact him or Layne, his Director of Operations, at ReynoldsP@tobaccofree.org, or by calling 800-541-7741 within the US, or (310) 471-0303.
Rendez-vous is supported by a contract from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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