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Published: Tuesday, 11/14/2006

'Winston man' warns teens

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dave Goerlitz shows Winston Cigarettes advertisements that, he said, were used to tempt teens into smoking. Dave Goerlitz shows Winston Cigarettes advertisements that, he said, were used to tempt teens into smoking.
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Judging by last week's election results, former "Winston Man" and current anti-smoking activist Dave Goerlitz's job was done in Ohio before he even started.

Ohio voters passed a statewide smoking ban in most public places - including bars and restaurants - and defeated a weaker ban supported by tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.

Mr. Goerlitz, who worked as the Reynolds company's chief ad man for Winston cigarettes from 1981-87, said he is proud to be in Ohio this week after the state got tough on smoking.

But his work is far from finished.

Sponsored by St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee as part of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, Mr. Goerlitz spoke at Penta Career Center yesterday and will make more appearances this week to deliver an anti-smoking message to the demographic he said R.J. Reynolds once encouraged him to reach: teens.

He will visit 13 Toledo area junior high and high schools this week, including Otsego, Maumee, Rossford, Bowsher, Whitmer, Springfield, and St. Ursula Academy high schools, and give a community presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday in St. Luke's auditorium.

"I want the kids to understand that tobacco companies try to entice and lure them specifically through advertising," Mr. Goerlitz said. "If you haven't started smoking by the time you're out of your teens, chances are you're not going to start. I know this because I used to be the poster boy for trying to get kids to smoke."

Mr. Goerlitz, who also works in real estate in New Jersey, said he delivers his message to students through a stand-up comedy routine. He said he doesn't preach, and uses humor and anecdotes from his life to make his points.

"One of my ads showed me doing some mountain-climbing with a cigarette, but how many smokers do you know who mountain-climbs?" Mr. Goerlitz said. "I want the kids to realize the lies these ads try to sell them."

A smoker since he was 13, Mr. Goerlitz publicly announced he was going to quit in 1988. He said he decided to quit after listening to encouragement from his three children; watching his brother have to fight cancer after years of smoking, and a stroke he suffered in 1984 that doctors said was caused by his habit.

Mr. Goerlitz said he was paid $100,000 annually to push Winston cigarettes, but will make just $21,000 lecturing on the adverse effects of smoking this year.

It didn't pay for Mr. Goerlitz to stop smoking and become an anti-tobacco advocate, but neither he nor the cigarette company was interested in extending his employment.

"I had been working for them and all of a sudden I was coming out publicly against smoking," Mr. Goerlitz said. "R.J. Reynolds doesn't call me anymore and we don't do lunch."

Mr. Goerlitz said the anti-smoking movement he's been dedicated to for almost 20 years is progressing slowly, with the passing of a strict smoking ban in Ohio as a prime example.

"It took four years for health-care workers in this state to fight for this when secondhand smoke has been proven to cause cancer for a lot longer than that," he said.

"We've got 22 states with some form of comprehensive ban and 28 that still have to gather information?

"That's sad."

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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