Journey – Day 16

As the Tobacco lawsuits came and went, I continued my travels to primarily Schools, Colleges, Universities, and Public Health events, Capital Step Youth protests and Marches in 49 of the 50 States.  I also went as an ambassador of the U.S. after having recieved the WHO Medal of Honor to 7 foreign countries.    The infusion of cash into the state coffers provided me with the opportunity to go to ( on a normal day ) 3 schools a day, 5 days a week, and for the most part 3-4 weeks a month and about 8 months a year.   My assembly programs were well received for the most part, knowing full well that  you can’t please all the people, all the time……especially the “academics” and also with all the controversy surrounding tobacco and target marketing.  In a lot of people eyes, I was not only a traitor, turncoat, whistleblower, and / or stooge.    Not having a lot of starch in my collar, or wearing a lab coat, having not had a formal education other than High School, some academic settings found me to be a little “rough around the edges”. I was in direct contradiction with the “science” which is sustainable because for the most part science is replicated, or its suppose to be. My place was to expose the Tobacco Industry and marketing tactics of the industry to confirm what would happen with my fellow speakers who were the actual “cause and effect” which was so much more obvious to the listener….This caused me to be a little more aggressive than the average motivational speaker who had the maladies.  My health issues were not quite as obvious as Rick’s, or Janets, or Waynes or other speakers who spoke with electronic devices after having had throat cancer and laryngectomies, or had lungs removed, or lost limbs, and no hair from chemo and radiation.  I LOOKED O.K.    But, in all honesty for the most part ,schools, administrators, my employers for that week (Health Dep’t. Coalition of Municipal Alliances, American Lung or Cancer sponsors) found my program informative, educational, entertaining and well worth the time spent to move en mass 2-3 thousand kids in a school day to the auditorium to listen to someone preach about SMOKING AND TOBACCO USE.  When I would arrive at a planned school, you could see the reservations in the Prinicpals tone that this was “going to be a challenge” as kids and even teachers don’t want to listen to people preach about tobacco.  What was there to talk about?   You smoke for a long time, and then you prematurely DIE..  End of Story.  It’s NASTY, End of Story.  You SMELL, End of Story.  Your teeth turn yellow,  End of Story.  If your parents smoked, you probably would to.  End of Story.   I was going all George Carlin and Lewis Black on these kids using humor ( which is probably why some teachers did not like my approach).  It wasn’t sciency enough.  How much more science did we need?  Now they were forced to see it first hand in the auditorium and you (as the listener….student)  are forced to have to make a conscious decision if you want this in your future or NOT.  YOU MUST DECIDE NOW !!!! The other speakers I am talking about were Rick Bender, who had half of his face removed from cancer as he was a baseball player and he chewed (dipped) tobacco.  Janet Sackman who was the beautiful Lucky Strikes Model who had developed throat cancer and had her larynex removed.  Wayne McLaren, one of the infamous Marlboro Men who had lung cancer.  The brainwashing was beginning to take hold and the programs were proving to help kids make “some” better choices (or so we were told….even though I thought otherwise.)   I was of the opinion that kids were always going to smoke and they have continued to prove me correct.  An Assembly program wasn’t going to be the end all to this.  Education  has to continue and repeated constantly to compete with the 15 billion dollars a year the tobacco company was spending on advertising to entice, encourage and lure its new replacement smokers.   It is pretty much the same with alcohol, texting while driving , bullying, hate crimes, not listening to authority figures.  I was never a fan of “The smoke Free Class of 2000”.  I was never a fan of a “Smoke Free Society”.  Maybe in theory it sounds good……but being a realist, you know it won’t ever happen. (Hope, again is not a strategy and I tkept telling them so…..we had to do more….but I was just the buffoon).  I was quickly finding out by shear observation, alot of this was just a big waste of money.  Thats why the tobacco industry never worried about their revenues and profits, as they had studies this even more than the academics, scientists and do-gooders that were pegged to become.   They will always have profits which is why so many Politicians and Doctors own Tobacco Stocks.   That is why some states that got Millions of dollars in Master Tobacco Settlement Money reinvested their money in Tobacco Stocks.   Teens have new perceptions and opinions about tobacco,  especially when 3 or 4 of us speakers (and there were actually more) were telling their stories to your face in real time. It wasn’t a brochure, a poster in health class, an op-ed in the paper, but real life victims.  My story of course  was a little different in that I had “only” had a stroke and didn’t appear disfigured, or sickly, and at deaths door.

And so it went, a Parade of victims all over the country, each in different regions at different times telling the life story of victims for the sake of the Anti-Tobacco movement to meet their quota for the next report that had to be submitted for the next deposit to reach their accounts to continue the same perpetuation of “facts” that we all seemed to accept without question.

What were the “facts”?  Smoking starts because of marketing.  O.K. maybe some do, but for the most part studies prove that it “is a right of Passage into adult hood”.   It’s forbidden, so young adults want to be a part of it. I certainly always said that marketing alone, was not the only reason teens start.  Peer pressure, looks cool, adult like behavior ( and everyone tells you to grow up from the time your 9 or 10).  Mom and Dad smoke etc.  My point is my zeal came from my own guilt and the brainwashing from the Anti-tobacco movement and I became the zealot they wanted me to be.  the Anti-tobacco movement needed to go back and re-group in order to really make a difference.  The anti-tobacco movement was,  before my own eyes becoming the ANTI-SMOKING MOVEMENT and I was still a part of it, because I was still getting paid.  That took a while for me to digest.  The very people out to help future generations from becoming addicted, the public health community supposedly there to educate the people who need guidance and support to find a way to quit (if they decided), and the very people who should be calling on the Federal Government to bring Big Tobacco to its knees is slowly crawling into bed to SLEEP WITH THE ENEMY.

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