Patrick Reynolds' biography
A grandson of cigarette company founder RJ Reynolds, Patrick Reynolds first spoke out publicly at a Congressional hearing in favor of a ban on all tobacco advertising in 1986. Former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop commented in 2003, "Patrick Reynolds is one of the nation's most influential advocates of a smokefree America. His testimony is invaluable to our society."
Mr. Reynolds' advocacy work and motivational talks to youth and adults have made him a well known and respected champion of a smokefree society. He has helped remind people of the dangers of smoking.
Patrick watched his father, RJ Reynolds, Jr., his oldest brother RJ Reynolds III, and other members of his family die from cigarette-induced emphysema and lung cancer. Concerned about the mounting health evidence, he made the decision to speak out against the industry his family helped build.
Mr. Reynolds serves as Executive Director of the Foundation for a Smokefree America, a nonprofit group he founded in 1989. Its mission is to motivate youth to stay tobacco free, and to empower smokers to quit successfully.
USA Today published an editorial Reynolds wrote making a compelling case for higher tobacco taxes in September, 2012.
In 2011, Tobaccofree.org released a new version of his bestselling educational video for grades 6 - 12, The Truth About Tobacco, 2011 Edition. The video shows a live talk Patrick gave to 1,000 9th graders, and is illustrated with award-winning TV spots, film clips and anti-smoking graphics. Available on Amazon.com, it sends an empowering message to youth. The first version was purchased by 10,000 schools.
In both his current live talk for middle and high schools and in the educational video, Reynolds discusses with passion his father's death from smoking, the addictiveness of nicotine, cigarette advertising, and smoking by stars in today's movies. He tells the tragic, powerful story of Sean Marsee, a high school track star who died at 19 from chewing tobacco, and shows students before and after pictures.
In the educational video and in his live talks, Reynolds also includes his unique initiation into life for youth, concluding with an inspiring message of hope for the future, which he says both reassures teens in a time of terrorism and uncertainty and motivates them to "Hold on to their health for the amazing years ahead of us all."
He closes the educational video and all his talks with his promise of the coming tobaccofree society. "It's coming in your lifetime -- and it's coming because of you," he says. Mr. Reynolds' video has won acclaim from educators and there has also been much praise for his live talks over the years. His talk for colleges is popular on university campuses.
Mr. Reynolds was a proponent of the Federal tobacco tax hike of 62 cents signed into law by Obama in 2009 on his 17th day in office. The same tax had been vetoed twice by President Bush.
Reynolds was also a vocal proponent of the Congressional bill for FDA regulation of tobacco. In March, 2009, he met in Washington DC with Rep. Henry Waxman, a co-sponsor of the bill, to offer his support. In June the bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. The same bill had been repeatedly killed by Republican leaders during the Bush years.
In April, 2009, Mr. Reynolds was invited to Greece by Health Minister Avramopoulos to help build public acceptance of Greece's new no-smoking law. There was strong Greek news coverage of his visit in which he focused public attention on the health hazards of second hand smoke.
Following his talks in Athens, the Greek Ministry of Health sent an official letter of recommendation to other Ministers of Health. The letter notes, "Mr. Reynolds gave a well-informed, polished and persuasive speech, and there was strong and very positive national media coverage of his visit. Moreover, his talk to youth at one of our local schools was a tremendous success. Mr. Reynolds has made a noticeable difference to our national efforts against smoking."
Over the years since first speaking out in 1986, Patrick Reynolds has spoken before numerous municipal and State legislatures in support of proposed smoking ordinances, campaigned for State and Federal cigarette tax increases, strong Statewide smoking bans, and laws to limit youth access to cigarettes. He approached several members of the US Congress about the aggressive advertising of US brands in the Third World and Asia.
Mr. Reynolds is also a longtime advocate of spending a larger portion of State tobacco revenues on teen smoking prevention programs, which many States have cut drastically in recent years. He points out, "Studies have proven that States with well funded tobacco prevention programs have significantly lower rates of youth smoking, while States with poorly funded programs have significantly higher levels of teen smoking. In short, these programs work, especially when implemented together with strong smoking bans and high tobacco taxes."
In 1987 Mr. Reynolds testified a second time in Congress, joining the many voices who helped bring about the first 2 hour ban of smoking on all US domestic flights.
Reynolds is working to build an endowment for the Foundation for a Smokefree America.
In 1988, the UN's World Health Organization honored him with a special award. In 1989, Chicago's Mt. Sinai Hospital awarded him its Humanitarian of the Year award.
Mr. Reynolds coauthored a biography with author Tom Shachtman about his colorful family history, The Gilded Leaf, spanning three generations of the RJ Reynolds family and fortune. The book was published by Little Brown to critical acclaim in 1989. Photos, reviews and a synopsis may be found at www.Tobaccofree.org/book/.
In college Reynolds studied English at UC Berkeley and then filmmaking at UCLA and USC. In 1969 he filmed a documentary titled 'Berkeley' which was shown at the 1970 Cannes film festival. Director Robert Altman invited Patrick to appear in his film Nashville in 1975, and following that, Reynolds studied acting with Lee Strasburg and other coaches. His acting resume includes several feature films and TV shows, with a starring role in Eliminators in 1986.
In 2007 he married Alexandra Olympios, and they have a son, born in 2009.
Side Box of Tobacco Facts for Journalists
We recommend including a side-box of tobacco facts, especially drawing on your State's most recent tobacco report card from the American Lung Association, available at StateofTobaccoControl.org.
The Campaign for Tobaccofree Kids provides data on your State's current spending on tobacco prevention programs, and useful statistics on tobacco in your State. See www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements and on the map of the US, click on your State. On your State page, in the right column, see "Tobacco's toll in [State name]", and at the bottom of that column, click on "More details."
High-resolution photos and video are downloadable from www.tobaccofree.org/photos
Videos of complete recent live talks by Mr. Reynolds are online at www.tobaccofree.org/clips/
Recent cable TV debates are at www.tobaccofree.org/tv/
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