Robert Starkey has a very personal connection to the Smokefree movement. Robert’s parents smoked when he was a child. At the age of six he suffered from Pneumonia which brought on a lifetime struggle with chronic bronchitis, sinus infections and allergies. He became vocal about his opposition to secondhand smoke as a teenager in the 1960's. In 1978 Starkey was taken to the emergency room at George Washington University hospital in Washington D.C. because he was coughing up blood from exposure to secondhand smoke. Over the years he had several tobacco related illnesses which incapacitated him for up to eight weeks. In 1983 he cared for a chain smoking neighbor for nine months until she died from cancer. She continued to smoke until she died. From this experience he learned the incredible addictive power of nicotine.

In the 1980’s Starkey became an advocate for smokefree environments for persons with AIDS. Through his involvement caring for persons with AIDS he began to understand the way in which secondhand smoke becomes a barrier for access to public places. In 1995 Robert lost his partner of 15 years to pneumonia. In 1997 he was diagnosed with adult onset asthma as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2000 he watched his 41 year old niece die from tobacco related lung cancer. In September 2001 Robert cared for his father who also died from lung cancer.

In the late 1990’s Robert volunteered in the effort to get the United States Senate and House of Representatives to pass laws that would ban smoking on all airline flights that land or take off from the US. He was also active in lobbying the Department of Transportation to ban smoking on airline flights. Robert also participated in the 1998 effort to stop the tobacco industry sponsored bill that would have repealed the California law that bans smoking in all workplaces. Assembly Bill 297 passed the California Legislature, but died in a Senate Health and Human Services committee. Robert has been very active on the international scene, in Greece, Thailand and Germany. He has been especially active in lobbying for the right of travelers to have smokefree access to all international airports.

Robert believes that "most people involved in the smokefree movement are passionate for the same reasons and experiences that motivate me!" He believes the best way to create a smokefree world is to empower people who don't smoke. "If everyone in the world could see tobacco through the eyes of Californians, they would understand that many of their illnesses are brought upon them by exposure to secondhand smoke. Once you have the chance to experience truly smokefree environments it requires you to go back and reassess your entire life!"

Contact Robert Starkey .