Smoked out

Published 10:20 am Friday, November 9, 2012

Patrick Reynolds, a grandson of the founder of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company, speaks to Franklin City Public School students on Thursday. -- Andrew Faison | Tidewater News


Franklin—Patrick Reynolds, a grandson of the founder of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company, keeps hoping for a tobacco-free society.

“And it’s coming because of today’s youth,” Reynolds told 200 Franklin students during a Thursday assembly. “My hope is that maybe we can stop some of these children from smoking, and get some to quit if they are smoking.”

Sponsored by Southampton Memorial Hospital, the appearances by Reynolds, which included Southampton High School and Paul D. Camp Community College, coincided with the hospital campus’ first day of going smoke-free.

“It’s a great feeling to make a difference in someone’s life,” he said. “It’s all about the feeling that maybe I’m making a difference.”

Reynolds’ father, R.J. Jr., died in 1964 from smoking-related illnesses. Patrick Reynolds was 16.

He attributes his father’s death for turning against his family business and becoming one of the nation’s top advocates against smoking.

“The hand that once fed me is the same hand that kills thousands every day,” Reynolds said.

The more he learned about the tobacco industry, the more angry the 63-year-old became with its executives, especially marketing to youth.

“The more I became involved in political campaigns, the more I became committed to the cause and became so committed as an advocate,” he said. “It needs to be brought to the forefront that smoking should not be tolerated anywhere near campuses like Southampton Memorial Hospital. I applaud them for their courage to train their staff as to how to get compliance from patients and staff in this matter.”

According to the American Lung Association, Virginia received failing grades for tobacco prevention, smoking restrictions and cigarette tax. Virginia has the second lowest cigarette tax in the country at 30 cents per pack.

“I urge people to call and write their legislators and ask for changes on these issues,” Reynolds said. “The biggest issue that has to be looked at is raising the tobacco tax; it is shamefully low.”

Franklin High School Assistant Principal Jason Chandler said the program tied into the eighth- through 10-grade health curriculum.

“It was a great way to bring them out of class and provide them some enriching materials for that curriculum,” Chandler said.

Phil Wright, chief executive officer for SMH, said reports indicating Franklin was the fifth sickest locality in the state prompted the hospital’s anti-smoking campaign.

“We felt that was just one of the issues that we should take the lead in the community and go tobacco-free,” Wright said.