My new goal to tackle smoking
IT was the 320km/h call from a billionaire on a bullet train that convinced rugby league’s greatest player to become an anti-tobacco crusader.
Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy’’ Forrest was rocketing towards Tokyo on a high-speed train when he called Johnathan Thurston, to ask the North Queensland Cowboys captain to spearhead his push to have the legal age of smoking raised to 21.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the NRL legend will today be announced as the face of Australia’s sixth-richest man’s anti-smoking campaign following the bizarre 15minute international call.
“I was actually a little bit in awe when he called,’’ Thurston said. “I am aware of his charity work and I know he supports some incredible causes, especially when it comes to the indigenous community, so I was certainly happy to be having a chat with him.’’
Thurston agreed to donate his time to take part in an advertising cam- paign set to be filmed this week. The fourtime Dally M player of the year will be the face of the initiative started by Forrest’s $75 million Eliminate Cancer Initiative.
“It is something I am proud to be a part of,’’ Thurston said. “I have seen first-hand the damage cigarettes can inflict and I am more than happy to do anything I can do to stop people from smoking.’’
Mr Forrest, who is challenging all state politicians to lift the smoking age, said his Tobacco 21 campaign was aimed at breaking the business model of tobacco companies, which target the 17-20 age group that is most likely to be swayed by peer pressure.
“When you think that 15,000 Australians die each year from tobaccorelated deaths and compare that with the horrific deaths of Gallipoli (8000 deaths) and the average yearly deaths during the world wars, it is less than what is being caused by tobacco,” he said. “Australia must make a stand.”
The legal smoking age at present is 18 and is within state jurisdiction.
Rugby league great and now anti-tobacco crusader Johnathan Thurston. Picture: Andrew Rankin