Personal Story

How I started in the field of smoking prevention and cessation

 In many ways, I don’t fully understand what originally sparked the interest in me and became what has now turned into a campaign of over 49 years.

I first started conducting smoking prevention seminars in 1971 as a freshman in high school. I was quite a sight back then. Fourteen years old, but coming off quite a bit younger since I wasn’t five feet tall and my voice hadn’t changed yet and I was a volunteer lecturer for the American Cancer Society.

Originally I was lecturing to high school and elementary school groups, but by the beginning of my junior year in high school, I was being asked to lecture in colleges and universities. While I am known by the online world now mostly for my writing, I was never really a natural writer. Public speaking was much easier and more natural to me.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I was lecturing in medical schools and at professional medical conferences throughout Illinois. I was also the main speaker at a number of conferences on smoking and health Illinois. At many of these conferences there would usually be a panel of physicians speaking on the laws about smoking, the economics of smoking, the advertising of smoking and the social implications of smoking and then I would be the speaker to deliver the dangers and the medical consequences of smoking.


Presenting a seminar on the dangers of smoking
to a Chicago public high school group in 1976.

I became quite a popular speaker in the area. I really enjoyed this work and I realized that I was reaching people with a potentially life saving message that just didn’t seem to be told often enough or understood well enough by the general public. 

The programs I conducted the first few years were always about the dangers of smoking. My audiences were either school age kids who I was trying to reach with the message of prevention, or programs for college students or professionals in the public health field in teaching them about the dangers of smoking and hopefully inspiring them to help to tackle the problem in their professional capacities.


Presenting the Palmolive Bottle Demonstration in the Chicago Civic Center in 1975.

In 1976 I was lecturing at a Chicago based medical school and one of the professors of the school had just been asked to send a speaker to a stop smoking clinic being held at a drug abuse center on the north side of Chicago. After seeing my presentation the professor asked if I could fill the request and be the speaker. I agreed to the request. All I was being asked to do was the opening session of the clinic, to teach the smokers wanting to quit what smoking was going to do to them if they didn’t quit. Another person was going to come teach them how to quit in the next four sessions of the clinic scheduled to be held later that week. 

The following article explains the next phase of my indoctrination into the stop smoking world. It also answers the question to my own personal smoking history.

Next Page: My smoking history