Meet Dr. Donnica Video Introduction TV Appearances

Diseases & Conditions Today on DrDonnica.com Clinical Trials Decisionnaires FAQs Top Tips Fast Facts Debunking Myths News Alerts Celebrity Speak Out Guest Experts Women's Health Champions Books Women's Health Resources

Mission Privacy Policy Sponsors Press Room What's New? Contact Us

This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Hope Award

Send to a Friend

Christy Turlington:
Not Just A Cover Model- A Role Model

Christy Turlington has graced the cover of so many magazines, her face has become almost synonymous with beauty and fashion.  In a presentation adapted from a speech she gave to the Society for Women's Health Research, Christy speaks, not as a famous model, but as a super role model for women everywhere. Christy is a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) advocating smoke-free healthy lifestyles.

With her own story of tobacco addiction and losing a loved one to lung cancer, Christy Turlington has become one of our country's most recognizable advocates of smoking prevention. Most recently, Christy launched the website SmokingIsUgly.com with abundant information about smoking, its impact and how to quit. She has hosted the video, "7 Deadly Myths:  Women and Smoking" for the CDC's educational outreach campaign.  In addition, Ms. Turlington has many other projects underway. She started a skin care company, Sundari; a clothing line for yoga, Nuala; and is in the process of writing a book.

Christy's Essay:

I want to commend the Society for Women's Health Research for pioneering efforts on the frontier of medical research, especially their perseverance in initiating and supporting the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report, "Sex Matters".  Not only is the IOM report important in our understanding of sex and gender differences in research and treatment, it is underscoring a greater need for sex-based considerations in medical studies.  That sex matters, however, has never been a surprise to tobacco companies.

In 1968, Virginia Slims was introduced by Philip Morris.   In the following six years, the number of girls ages twelve to eighteen who smoked more than doubled.  Today over 22 million American women and one out of every four girls under the age of eighteen smoke.   By the year 2030, the combined death toll of men and women will rise to ten million per year.  That's a Vietnam War every day.  A war in which the enemy is tobacco.  An over-the-counter addictive product that is the leading cause of preventable death in this country.  An addictive product whose one of many claims to fame is having hooked at least one in five women and preying on the influences of 30% of high school senior girls.

The tobacco industry in the U.S. is a massive money-making industry that spends billions year after year (the Industry spent $8.24 Billion in advertising alone in 1999) tweaking its campaigns and pouring money into research studies to better understand the psychology of "how to get a teenager to smoke."  Or better yet, "how to get a teenage girl to smoke." By creating an illusion of acceptance or offering a rebellious outlet, cigarette ads prey on the formation of young women's sense of self and independence.  It is no surprise then that young women comprise the fastest-growing demographic of smokers today.  And unless this insidious epidemic is counter-targeted, the numbers will only become more terrifying. 

I remember when I started smoking.  I was thirteen.  My dad smoked and like so many other kids who later become smokers, I hated it.  I can recall when my older sister and her friends began to smoke.  And by the time I started high school, my friends and I were smoking as well.  I can't really pinpoint why I picked up that first cigarette, or at what point my feelings about cigarettes and smoking went from disgust to curiosity, but I did know that it didn't take long for me to "become a smoker."  Shortly after this, I started modeling.  And though my mother usually accompanied me to appointments, believe me, I took every chance I could when she wasn't around to light up a cigarette.  I suppose I felt like it made me fit in with most of the people in that industry.  It certainly made me look independent and older.  Or so I thought.  Now that I look back, you could say I was the ideal target for the tobacco industry: young, female, wanting to fit in, wanting to look independent, wanting to show the world that I make my own decisions. 

I finally quit six years ago, at the age of 26.  I gave up smoking for good, quitting cold turkey.  I couldn't stand not having control anymore.  I was fed up and embarrassed at too many failed attempts.  My dad was a different story.  He had continued to smoke, even hiding it from me.  And despite a heart attack and coughing up blood, the thought of quitting was just too overwhelming.  I pleaded with my dad to quit again after I had, showing him I was proof he could do it.  I succeeded and he finally went into a weeklong cessation program in December 1996 and quit.  Sadly, he was diagnosed with lung cancer just weeks after quitting.  He died six months later in June 1997.  He was 64 years old and had smoked for over 50 years.  The one thing I was most thankful for during my dad's illness was that I wasn't still smoking.  Another was that he didn't have to endure lung cancer any longer than he did.

Lung cancer is a plague.  Tobacco-related deaths claim the lives of 430,000 Americans each year. Since 1950, the death rate for lung cancer among women has increased 600%.  In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death.  And last year, 27,000 more women died of lung cancer than of breast cancer.  Yet, strangely enough, many women are shocked to hear this.  Why is this?  Why is it that three million women have died prematurely because of smoking since 1980, yet this is the first Surgeon General's report on women and smoking since then?!  Imagine if the last health report on women and HIV hadn't been issued since 1980?  We wouldn't be sitting here tonight, that I can assure you.

I am appealing to you on behalf of my father who died of lung cancer and on behalf of my own damaged lungs, though in four more years I will have decreased my risk by 35-50% after having been a non-smoker then for ten years.  On behalf of all of the men and women who have died from smoking-related deaths and on behalf of every teenage girl and young woman who is picking up a cigarette for the first time this very second.  This war against tobacco is not MERELY to protect these young women, and all people, from the bombardment of misleading advertising and lies, but to give them their best defense weapon: education.   It is education and becoming more knowledgeable that will arm us with the tools that will enable us to succeed and put a stop to the rising rates of preventable death.  I think most women who smoke are unaware that, first and foremost, they have an 80 to 90% greater risk for any type of premature death, let alone from cancer, not to mention lower bone density, an increased risk of conception delay, a higher risk of primary and secondary infertility and a greater risk to the adverse effects of second-hand smoke when pregnant.

We need more role models and increased awareness.  We need the medical community to join us in a campaign to increase funding for affordable pre-screening so that a killer like lung cancer can be detected early.  We need the strength of media journalists to help inform the community and question the responsible corporations.  If we consider the amount of money that continues to flow through the tobacco industry and out into our visual culture we need only be more inspired to redirect that funding into women's health research.  If the tobacco companies can spend their money on us, so can we.  By investing in women's health research we are investing in our most important resource-ourselves.  After 21 years of virtual silence, perhaps we should listen to one of the current ad campaigns out there and "find our voice." 

Recently, I wrote an article for Teen Vogue, sharing my experience as a smoker in the fashion industry.  I believe that it's important that young women are reading that smoking is not a way to keep thin, that it's not sexy or glamorous or fashionable.  In the following issue of the magazine, a young woman wrote to the editor saying that she had read the article and was affected by it.  She was a smoker and appreciated the honesty of the article, and was going to try to quit again.  Even if I never see another letter from a reader again I'll at least know that one girl out there was affected by what I have to share.  I truly believe that acting responsibly is personal and if I, or anyone else at home or in the spotlight, have the opportunity to speak or act differently and maybe even make a change, then we must.  

For more information on smoking cessation, click here.

To see more information about Christy Turlington's involvement with the anti-smoking movement, click here

To go to Christy Turlington's website, click here.

Created: 5/14/2001  -  Christy Turlington

All the content contained herein is copyrighted pursuant to federal law. Duplication or use without
the express written permission of DrDonnica.com subjects the violator to both civil & criminal penalties.
Copyright © 2006 DrDonnica.com. All rights reserved.

Home | Today on DrDonnica.com | Meet Dr. Donnica | TV Appearances | Clinical Trials
Diseases & Conditions | Decisionnaires | Celebrity Speak Out | Guest Experts | Women's Health Champions
FAQs | Women’s Health Resources | Archive | Books & Tapes | Site Certification | Advanced Search
Mission | What’s New? | Press Room | Privacy Policy | Sponsors | Partners | Contact Us