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Smoker Makes Costly Pledge: No Ifs, Ands or Butts

September 17, 1986|ANN HEROLD

--Nicotine substitutes couldn't do it. Hypnotherapy failed. Even motivational tape recordings left him cold. John McElvaney was a desperate man. Finally, in a last-ditch effort to snuff his smoking habit, the 36-year-old Australian businessman did the unthinkable--he pledged the equivalent of $6,000 to the Australian Tax Commission if he takes as much as one puff over the next 10 years. McElvaney, a Sydney resident who has smoked since he was 14, handed over the cash to tax authorities and signed a legally binding health bond. If he fails, the tax commission will keep his money. If he succeeds, the amount, with interest, will be shared by his two sons, the Anti-Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation. McElvaney said he has already tried to give up smoking more than 20 times. "I've taken all sorts of pills, nicotine substitute chewing gum, listened to motivation tape recordings. . . ." he said. For the Australian government, McElvaney's gesture is timely. The Public Service Board recently unveiled a controversial plan to ban smoking in all government offices.

--For Reece Whitley, his critters have the sweet smell of success. For others, they just stink. Whitley keeps two dozen tame skunks at his Albemarle, N.C., home. He sells some of the skunks as pets, but he said the real money is in extracting skunk essence for use in perfumes and animal lures for hunters. He said one perfume developer offered $20 an ounce for the essence. His neighbors are not impressed. "A skunk is a skunk, and it's going to stink," said City Council member Hoot Gibson. "Would you want them next door to you?"

--A Vietnam War veteran who renounced his Medal of Honor to protest U.S. policy in Central America said he will go without food until the Administration cuts off aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, known as contras . "My strongest opposition to anything is my life itself," said Charlie Litkey, who said he is willing to fast until death to stop the "U.S. war in Nicaragua." Litkey, a former Army chaplain, made his remarks at a "Veterans Fast for Life" news conference in Washington. He was flanked by three other veterans who will join him in his fast to protest Congress' approval of President Reagan's $100-million aid package to the contras, which currently awaits a conference committee.

--Harvard University President Derek C. Bok will take a three-month leave of absence beginning in January to travel abroad, the first leave he has taken in nearly 20 years. Henry Rosovsky, an economist and former dean of arts and sciences, will be acting president during Bok's absence.

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