Winston man brings anti-smoking message to OUS

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Touting the dangers of tobacco use, former "Winston Man" Alan Landers speaks from the heart - and the lungs; and the throat; and his other body parts that were severely damaged by years of using the product he promoted.

Landers, an actor and model who promoted Winston cigarettes in magazines, billboards and television ads during the 1960s and '70s, battled two lung cancer tumors, reconstructive vocal cord surgery and a double heart bypass surgery to become an outspoken anti-tobacco advocate.

"I detest the tobacco people. They are cold-hearted killers and marketers of death," he said Tuesday to a group of more than 200 youth at Ohio University Southern. "They don't care if you live or die. All they want is your money."

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Landers, a Florida native who started smoking at the ripe old age of 9, tried to drive his message home with his personal experiences and the statistics: Cigarettes contain 60 cancer-causing carcinogens. Six million people a year are dying of tobacco-related illnesses. Tobacco companies spend $12 billion a year to downplay these facts.

"I am not here to preach to you about whether or not you should smoke. I am here to tell you the truth about the product because all the tobacco companies do is lie to you," Landers told the audience he darted around the stage. "I will tell you the truth and what you decide to do is up to you."

The youth cheered and laughed boisterously as he made some jokes about the seriousness of the matter.

Russell, Ky., resident Ryan Thompson, 14, watched the presentation with a group of youth from OUS' NYSP camp. Thompson said he thinks education is the first step to keeping people from using tobacco.

"I think there is a real problem. People are smoking because they think it is cool," he said. "But they are like walking time-bombs because they will die because of what they are doing."

The tobacco companies try to create the illusion that smoking is cool and that it will make someone cool, sexy, hip and rebellious. All are just lies, Landers said.

"It is the biggest con job of the 20th century," he said. "Nicotine is a drug. If you smoke you are a drug addict."

Sixteen-year-old Brent Kidd is a member of the Lawrence County Stand team, an anti-tobacco marketing campaign initiated by the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation. He said that Landers is a great example of what can happen after years of tobacco use.

"It is great to talk to the kids while they are still young. Once they start, it is so hard to quit," Kidd said. "If you get the right information out, then youth can make the right choices."

Landers spoke to the public Tuesday evening. Both events were sponsored by the Lawrence County QUIT Coalition and OUS.