SKOKIE, ILL. – Radio host Mike North (search) took his show on the road for what he believed was a good cause: Collecting cigarettes for soldiers overseas.
North urged his listeners in Skokie, Ill., to donate cigarettes to be sent to the troops. He called the campaign “Smokes for Soldiers” (search) and said he got the idea from the picture of James Miller (search), the 20-year-old Marine in combat in Iraq photographed with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“His picture was plastered all over the newspapers and I started reading … and he says, ‘I’m just doing what’s supposed to be done, but guess what? There’s a shortage of cigarettes out here,’” North said.
The American Lung Association (search) opposes the “Smokes for Soldiers” drive, saying troops should be sent care packages that don’t kill, and distributed a memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) in which he advised that tobacco should be avoided because it impacts troop readiness.
“Tobacco use presents an immediate and real danger for our soldiers who are on the lines today,” said Joel Africk of the American Lung Association. More than 400,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses.
Ironically, Skokie — where North is conducting his campaign — has a ban on smoking in restaurants because of health concerns.
North said he understands where the association is coming from and said the drive wasn't trying to encourage nonsmokers to start lighting up — but instead was designed to help soldiers who already are in the habit. The campaign has generated 100,000 cigarettes in all.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.