My new goal to tackle smok­ing

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JAMES PHELPS JANE HANSEN

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

Mr For­rest.

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