Hollywood's Responsibility for Smoking Deaths

"I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings," writes Joe Eszterhas, the author of movie megahits such as Flashdance and Basic Instinct. "I am admitting this only because I have made a deal with God. Spare me, I said, and I will try to stop others from committing the same crimes I did." His crime? Making smoking look "cool and glamorous ... an integral part of many of my screenplays." Eszterhas says his moral awakening came after he was diagnosed with throat cancer, "the result of a lifetime of smoking. I am alive but maimed. Much of my larynx is gone. I have some difficulty speaking; others have some difficulty understanding me." After witnessing firsthand the suffering that goes on in cancer wards, Eszterhas now says that glamorizing smoking is "unconscionable" and calls Hollywood "the advertising agency and sales force for an industry that kills nearly 10,000 people daily. A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star onscreen is a gun aimed at a 12- or 14-year-old. ... The gun will go off when that kid is an adult. We in Hollywood know the gun will go off, yet we hide behind a smoke screen of phrases like 'creative freedom' and 'artistic expression.' ... I don't wish my fate upon anyone in Hollywood, but I beg that Hollywood stop imposing it upon millions of others." According to Stanton Glantz, Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco and an outspoken opponent of the tobacco industry, "It would be nice if the power structure in Hollywood felt the same way he did. Right now, movies are still the leading pro-tobacco influence in the world today as far as kids are concerned."