Tobacco heir speaks out against Issue 4

10/28/2006
BY JENNI LAIDMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Reynolds
Reynolds

The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is trying to fool Ohio voters, says the grandson of the tobacco company's founder, and he was in Toledo yesterday, he said, to set the record straight.

If Ohioans want to curb tobacco-related deaths, they need to vote against tobacco-company bankrolled Issue 4 and vote Yes on Issue 5, Patrick Reynolds told a gathering at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

"R.J. Reynolds is funding the Issue 4 campaign. They advertise it as a law to protect nonsmokers, but the truth is, Issue 4 would allow smoking almost everywhere," he said.

Passage of Issue 4, a consti-tutional amendment, would overturn every smoking law in Ohio, including laws in Toledo and Bowling Green. If both Issue 4 and Issue 5 pass, only the less-restrictive Issue 4 becomes law because it is a constitutional amendment.

Issue 5 would prohibit smoking in nearly all public places, including bars and restaurants.

Backers of Issue 5 listen as Patrick Reynolds, grandson of company founder R.J. Reynolds, speaks out against Issue 4.
Backers of Issue 5 listen as Patrick Reynolds, grandson of company founder R.J. Reynolds, speaks out against Issue 4.

Advertisements for the tobacco-industry-supported Issue 4 "claim it will protect public health," Mr. Reynolds said. "That lie is even harder to swallow than their claim for years that it was never proven that smoking causes disease."

Jacob Evans, a spokesman for Smoke Less Ohio, which supports Issue 4, said the amendment will allow smoking only in businesses that bar minors.

"Very few businesses could put up a sign 'minors prohibited' and expect to stay in business," Mr. Evans said.

Restaurants with enclosed smoking sections, along with bars and bowling alleys could continue to allow smoking, he said.

"That's misleading because children still go into restaurants and bowling alleys," Mr. Reynolds said. "Those aren't necessarily adult places. Issue 4 claims separate smoking sections are going to protect the health of nonsmokers. Well, it's really just a cosmetic measure."

Issue 4 does not require separate ventilation for smoking sections.

Mr. Reynolds, in Ohio as a volunteer on behalf of Issue 5, is founder of the Los Angeles-based Foundation for a Smokefree America.

Although tobacco is what made his family rich, 57-year-old Mr. Reynolds said he divested himself of all his tobacco stock in 1979, before he quit smoking.

"I was uncomfortable owning stock in a company I knew was profiting from the deaths of 420,000 Americans every year." Among those tobacco-related deaths are his father, R.J. Reynolds, Jr., who died from emphysema, and his oldest brother, R.J. Reynolds III, also a victim of emphysema. His surviving brother also suffers from emphysema, he said.

Still, it was six years after Patrick Reynolds got rid of his tobacco stock that he quit smoking, successful finally on his 12th attempt.

For people trying to quit, smoke-free bars and restaurants are a terrific aid, he said.

"When they don't see people light up in public, they are less tempted to light up themselves."

R.J. Reynolds spokesman Craig Fischel said: "While he is entitled to his opinion, the real decision will come from Ohio voters. They will decide what smoking policy is best for the state.

"Somebody has to stand up for rights of smokers so that their voices are heard," Mr. Fischel said. "If we're not going to do it, who will?"

Mr. Reynolds summed up the difference between the two ballot issues.

"Do you trust a company who's profiting off the deaths of 420,000 Americans every year? Or do you trust the American Cancer Society, which backs Issue 5 and first proved the link between smoking and lung cancer?" Mr. Reynolds asked the group at the health department gathering.

Some 50 members of the medical community were on hand to hear Mr. Reynold's discuss the tobacco campaign.

"•'Issue 5 to stay alive' is our mantra in the medical profession," said Dr. Donna Woodson, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Health board.

Dr. John Schaeufele, a pediatrician at Mercy Children's Hospital, said a 2003 study showed 91 percent of children hospitalized at Mercy for respiratory ailments were exposed to second-hand smoke at home.

"Only 30 percent of families smoke," Dr. Schaeufele said. "That's an extraordinarily telling statistic. Children cannot vote. We need to vote for them."

Contact Jenni Laidman at:

jenni@theblade.com or

419-724-6507.