Influence of Celebrities and Smoking, Part II

Anne Mitchell Health Guide
  • Lance Armstrong is visiting Madison and Milwaukee this week to advocate for a smoke-free Wisconsin. His visit supports a proposed senate bill that bans smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Having celebrities such as Armstrong work to help reduce this country’s leading cause of cancer is a breath of fresh air, and we’d love to see more of it.

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ben Affleck’s appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show where he talked about quitting smoking for the sake of his child and wife in "The Influence of Celebrities Who Smoke." In the meantime, untold numbers of photos and movie scenes depicting other celebrities smoking have appeared.
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    The actions and words of celebrities have a measurable impact on the rates of smoking among teens and young adults. In fact, researchers at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire determined that “teen viewing of movie smoking could as much as triple their risk of starting to smoke”

    Celebrities obviously have a right to choose to smoke if they wish and many magazines go out of their way to avoid publishing photos of celebrities smoking. But celebrities have a public role to play, and they can’t avoid the fact that their behavior is watched and emulated by others. When someone in the limelight quits smoking and then speaks out publicly about the change, they serve as role models in a way that can actually save lives.

    On the Centers for Disease Control site there is a page called Celebrities Against Smoking, but there are only two celebrities listed -Christy Turlington and Esai Morales. Wouldn’t it be great if there were dozens of names?’s site lists celebrities who died from smoking-related illnesses. These luminaries include John Candy (43), George Harrison (58), and Robert Palmer (54). Imagine how much richer our world would be if these people hadn’t died a premature death.

    Of course, the same can be said for the 438,000 lives lost in our country each year due to smoking-related illnesses. I’m sure these individuals each had families who wish they still had their loved ones with them. Whether someone is a celebrity or not, a life lost early is always a tragedy.

    We all influence others by our choices, whether we realize it or not. Every person who is successful in quitting smoking serves as a role model for the next person who might be thinking of starting. They also serve as an inspiration for those who are struggling to quit.

    Kudos to Lance Armstrong for spending his valuable time on this effort to reduce smoking-related illnesses. I look forward to seeing more celebrities speak out about this deadly habit. Our teens need healthy role models and today’s celebrities are in a unique position to help determine the smoking rates of tomorrow.
Published On: March 03, 2008