Having traveled to Alaska, Lajitas, TX, Sedona, AZ, The Valley of Fire, NV, Colorado, and other fabulous places, I was living my dream. I spent the next 6 years enticing, encouraging and luring new smokers to take up the use of this product. While in Colorado, when at the top of Mt. Evans (very high altitude) and at an elevation where a heavy smoker quickly realizes he doesn’t belong, something happened that made me ask a question and it was directed at the executive from RJ Reynolds. “How come you guys from RJR don’t smoke ?” His response was “we don’t smoke the shit, we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.” . Later, I would testify to that in the courts and in Congress. The reason I asked the question to begin with was because I was on oxygen at that elevation, and I had to remove the oxygen mask to smoke. The majority of people on the shoot didn’t smoke. I guess it hit me that smoking and mountain climbing don’t go together. Just proves, you can justify almost anything.
For the next 6 years, I continued to glamorize tobacco. I had a total of 42 different ads for magazines, billboards, vending machines and other points of sale distribution. I was drinking the kool aid, and loving it. My choice, and no one put a gun to my head.
During my employment, my brother developed the big “C”. I continued to justify my involvement. It was just a job for gods sake. It was also about the same time when the Anti-tobacco activists started to speak out against what everyone was calling our nations #1 cause of premature death and disease. lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema. There was even talk about something called secondary smoke and how it “may” be hazardous.
I continued to see my popularity rise with my agents, ad agency and employer RJR.
Then the problem. Since commercials for cigarettes went off television in the 70’s, millions and millions were being spent in the print and billboard and sporting sponsorships like Virginia slims tennis tournaments, Kool jazz festivals, the Winston cup, Benson and Hedges downhill ski racing etc.
It appears that the tobacco companies are now the bad guy. Evil, corrupt, morally deficient, murderers. Millions being spent to kill 400,000 smokers annually in the US alone. I’m smack dab in the middle of it.
When I was originally hired in 1980 and my first ads started running in 1981, the Anti tobacco movement had built an army of well paid warriors to fight. They claimed to have the research, medical data and PROOF to eliminate the scourge of tobacco on our society and they vowed to rid the world of their ability to cause death and destruction. So with all the evidence, research, and medical proof they claimed to have had, why not just ban all forms of tobacco? The Surgeon General himself C.Everett Koop called it poison and could not get it banned. They were comparing it to the asbestos cover up and Asbestos got banned. Tobacco was different. Too many tax dollars at risk, what about the poor tobacco farmer, the jobs, the lobbyists, the embarrassment of senators and state officials who smoked????? What to do, what to do? Now you had both sides embellishing their causes to save face. Common sense and logic got lost somewhere in the mix. Intelligent people, scientists, medical professionals, public health educators, senators, governors, attorney generals, presidents and Vice Presidents discussing the possible cover ups and strategies. Now all they need is good lawyers. Both sides had them.
Let the fun begin…still teens start smoking and have no problem getting them. Adults perplexed about the choice they made to use as teens. baby boomers are dying and suffering at great neck speeds. Thousands trying to quit, but can’t. What to do? What to do? Can’t quit, won’t quit. My right to smoke and kill myself if I want to. Leave me alone, mind your business, you’re a loser, kill yourself if you want, but stay the hell away from me. It was middle and high school bullying all over again. WTH. Grown ups being treated like lepers was not going to cut it. LET THE WAR BEGIN.