Maybe it was the sum total of all I had experienced during my visit to my brother in Boston, and maybe it was the look of REAL FEAR for me in my sons eyes. After his constant begging, along with my other two kids, I told him I would quit. What had I just done? It just came out. I said, ” I don’t know how or when, but I promise I’ll quit smoking”. When you gonna quit Dad? huh? huh? huh? Guess he was looking for a stronger committment than my normal, “stop bugging me” mantra. Where my kids are concerned, I am nothing if I am not a man of my word. I publicly told them I would quit. Now I had to tell everyone in my world that the Winston Man was going to quit. Not as easy as you’d think to tell agents, employers, creditors, and friends that I was ready to do this. Even though, my reign as lead model for the past 7 years or so was slowing down due to all the negative Anti-Smoking messages, I still felt that seeing my billboards and magazine ads would continue for a while and I could still get residuals. Money, money, money. Yeah, I was making alot of it.
For the next 5 months or so, I investigated the “how would I quit question?” Back in 1988, options were limited to the Cold Turkey method, Hypnotherapy, and Counseling, both group and private. A couple of the non-profit Cancer, Lung, and Heart Associations had some brochures, so I gave them a “shout”. Also, in those 5 months I developed a plan to handle my failure of quitting, since everyone I knew who had attempted the same thing failed miserably. People said you “really have to want to quit”. What the hell did that mean.? I don’t think I wanted to OR did I?
I thought the best way to succeed would be to go “public” and announce that I would quit…….so I began my due dilligence. I visited the American Cancer Societies Philadelphia’s Office and went in. I chose the American Cancer Society because not only my brother, but my Nephew, my Mom and Grandmon had battled cancer and lost…They (ACS) were the most familiar to me. I was met and greeted with some staff workers and I proceeded to a private office where I began to tell “my story”. Within one hour, I spoke with American Cancer Society corporate officers and lawyers. They loved the idea of going public and they suggested I try quitting on their infamous GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT, which I later found out was on the 3rd Thursday of every November. They were a little too gleeful ? On the other hand they were worried about their complicity in a possible lawsuit by the tobacco companies. Here, on one hand they had a new hook to perpetuate their one day a year extravaganza. Their comment was “Won’t this be fun?” On the other hand, no one had ever done this before and is it possible that there could be legal ramifications? Could/would the American Cancer Society be held accountable and complicit in the wake of the lead model for RJ Reynolds quitting the product he endorsed so publicly and maliciously?? I never gave it a thought until after I did the deed. The idea of the Great American Smokeout was to quit for at least one day, with a National Organization that would give you support and free crap. They would give out….. Kiss Me I don’t smoke buttons, little goody bags with gum, mints etc., key chains, and other various stuff to reward you for giving up what many smokers and tobacco users would consider to be akin to “giving up your best friend”. Non smokers will not have a clue to this past sentence. In a short time, I came to find out just how much smokers were considered vile, selfish, out of control, and simply incapable of taking care of themselves or their families. It was a sticky wicket I tell ya. Smokers present and past and reformed, I’m sure can relate. Cigarettes for me seemed more often than not to be the only thing in my life I could control. I smoked when, where and how often I wanted. Seems funny to say that word “control”, when the majority of Americans were calling smokers , “out of control”. Anti-Smoking delegates and volunteers “for the cause” showed their colors very early on. More about that later. I’m not sure about other smokers, but for the longest time I always thought I made the decision to smoke, even if I was only 13 when I started. No one put a gun to my head….no one forced me to smoke. Now, all this evidence that I guess they had (because they said so) at least in part was met with the confusion regarding the justification to smoke a LEGAL PRODUCT. These do-gooders, may have been well intended, but I thought there may be a better way to approach this controversial issue that seemed to be brewing right in front of me. All the science, accusations, brow-beating and medical opinions still wasn’t reaching the hard core users of tobacco, and as long as they were being held hostage by all the science, data, and reports people were giving to the media they would stand shoulder to shoulder and tell the Anti’s to go to hell sooner than look at them. Remember, in the early days volunteers were fundraisers for their causes, which was usually due to the fact they were feeling guilty because they couldn’t help their loved one or family member quit the vile weed that caused so much destruction and dispair in their family household. Many of them hated what caused all the personal family pain they struggled with. Hate, is probably the right word for some who were to become zealots and what many began to call Tobacco Nazi’s. I have to believe that they (anti-smokers) were in the beginning, well intended, but quickly became sheep following the corporate leaders vying for the same donations for cancer, lung and heart disease, since everyone including the press was believing all the medical “PROOF” without question or research. It seems there was going to be alot of money becoming available as these organizations had secret meetings designed to capitalize on the grants, education, cessation, TAXES and prevention programs that would be developed very soon against not only the smoker, but also those against Big Tobacco. The smoker was being thrown under the bus, and for most part “addicts” needed their help whether they wanted it or not. It’s one thing to ask for help and a totally different animal when you are force fed what many were beginning to believe was pure bull. To bombard the smoker in a civil, caring way, like organizing the Great American Smokeout seemed harmless enough at the time. The Anti Tobacco Movement became anything but Caring, Compassionate and Civil. What to do? What to Do? It gets better folks. Greed will always outweigh Fear. Billions and billions of dollars worth of greed. I’m stepping into another “perfect storm”