David Goerlitz (The Winston Man)

For siz years, David Goerlitz was the Winston Man, the model who represented Winston cigarettes in newspaper and magazine advertising. He was a 3-pack a day smoker who smoked Wintons and was proud of it. When he gave up smoking, he stopped modeling for Winston--and walked away from a $75,000 a year in doing so. Figuring that he persuaded many young people to start smoking in his years as the Winston Man, he is now committed to persuading people to stop. He is 39 yrs old as of this story and some of the numbers listed below are outdated.

Doesn't it seem odd to you that 95% of the peole who die of lung cancer are smokers? Or that 78% of the people who die of heart disease are smokers? It's a horrible feeling to be aware of what cigarettes do to people's health, knowing that I was the main reason that Winston became the #2 selling cigarette over a 4-year period. I have a very guilty conscience about that.

I loved smoking, loved it. I didn't just light cigarettes; I smoked them. I wasn't even out of bed when I had my first cigarette. The last thing I did at night was smoke a cigarette. I started when I was fifteen, and I smoked for 24 years. I was up to three and half packs a day when I quit.

There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't smoke. It didn't matter if I had a cold, I smoked. When I was in the hospital with my whole left side paralyzed, I smoked. I was working as Harrison Ford's double in Witness, doing stunts, and the last week of the shoot, my left side suddenly became paralyzed. They gave me VIP treatment in the hospital, complete with a private room, and in my room I could do anything I wanted, including smoke. The first thing I did in the morning was smoke a cigarette, and the last thing I did in the evening was smoke a cigarette.

The evidence of addiction became more and more undeniable as I got older. I would not go to sleep if I was down to fewer than ten or twelve cigarettes. I would go out and buy a pack of cigarettes so I'd have them in case I woke up in the middle of the night and needed them. That never happened, but the fear that it might only grew stronger as the years went by. I would literally get out of bed on a cold night, get dressed, shovel the snow off my car, and go out to find a store that was open 24 hours to buy a pack of cigarettes, to be sure those cigarettes were there, just in case.

I used to hide cigarettes under the seats of my car. If I had a pack of cigarettes in my pocket that only had 4 or 5 cigarettes left, I'd take that pack and put it under the seat of the car and put a fresh pack in my pocket. I'd store them up just the way a little chipmunk or pack rat would do. I didn't care if they got stale; it didn't matter.

I would go through ashtrays to find a butt that had maybe as much as an inch of tobacco left in it, and I would save those, too. I hoarded them against an emergency, against the day I might need them. I wish I were as good with my money as I was with my cigarettes. I always knew where my cigarettes went, and I always knew where to find some when I needed them.

For twenty-four years I smoked. For four years the neurosurgeon told me I'd better lay off the cigarettes because of the paralysis I had. That didn't stop me. My son, who's now ten, begged me every year on his birthday to stop smoking as his birthday present. That didn't stop me. My mother sent me pictures of tar-coated lungs in the mail. That didn't stop me. My gums had been bleeding for four years, and everyone in my family complained about the way I smelled from smoking. That didn't stop me either.

What stopped me was seeing kids twelve and thirteen buying cigarettes and lighting up, and the fear that I might have influenced them to smoke. What stopped me was the realization that the tobacco industry commits murder, and I have been an accessory for six years. The tobacco industry is pushing a substance as addictive as cocaine or heroin that kills over 400,000 people every year from diseases directly related to smoking.

Smoking-related diseases are the biggest public health issue in the United States today. Not AIDS, Not drugs. Not even highway deaths. More people die every year from smoking-related diseases than from any other single cause in this country's history, with the exception of World War II. The Surgeon General has declared that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, and women who don't smoke but whose husbands do have a 40% greater chance of getting lung cancer than women who are married to men who don't smoke.

There are 50 million smokers in the United States. That's 26 percent of the population. Every year 4-5% quit smoking. The 4-5% who quit are usually over forty years of age. Look at the figures. Fifty million smokers spending $2 per day is $100 million per day, $700 million per week. The tobacco industry generates $15 billion per year. To maintain those kinds of revenues the tobacco industry needs to recruit 5,000 new smokers every single day to offset those who quit--and those who die. The tobacco industry would rather addict the young. They'll be customers longer. That's why cigarette advertising is aimed at teen-agers.

I also feel guilty about having been an inconsiderate smoker. I honestly felt that non-smokers who asked me not to smoke were infringing on my civil rights. "I can smoke if I want to; it's not illegal!" was my resentful reaction. I didn't care about the non-smoker, secondhand smoke, the offensive smell, or any of that stuff.

Now it seems to me that the tobacco companies use the "right to smoke" issue as a diversionary tactic. If smokers and non-smokers fight with each other, maybe they'll never notice that smokers are paying for the dubious priviledge of allowing the tobacco companies to reap huge profits from systematically poisoning their customers. Any other industry that did that would be shut down instantly and ordered to pay heavy damages to those who were sick and to the families of those who died.

I have three children in the public schools. They are exposed every day to secondhand smoke from teachers who smoke. Not one of of my children smokes, but all of them are exposed to nicotine addiction from their teachers' smoking. The dangers are all clearly detailed in the Surgeon General's 1986 report Health Effects of Secondary Smoke. Not to mention the simple hypocrisy of the teachers coming back from their cigarette break and telling the kids to "just say no." I think the 74% of us who don't smoke should protect our children's health by making it illegal to smoke anywhere in public.

I've had great things happen since I stopped smoking. For one thing, I have much more self-esteem and confidence, and that makes my work better. I lost eleven pounds. And I used to worry that sex wouldn't be the same without a cigarette after. I was right, it's not the same. It's better!

Please take the time to share your experiences with others. You could help someone more than you'll ever know. Thank you.

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