Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation to Launch Anti-Smoking Campaign

Eszterhas Takes Aim at Smoking in Movies: 'Don't Let People Like Me Kill You'

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona Commends 'Join Joe' Campaign

Nov 19, 2003, 00:00 ET from The Cleveland Clinic Foundation

    CLEVELAND, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has written
 and filmed a 30-second public service announcement to be shown in movie
 theaters which warns audiences "not to get suckered into smoking by
     (Photo:  NewsCom: )
     "I glamorized smoking in my movies," Eszterhas says on screen to
 moviegoers.  "Then I got throat cancer.  Maybe that's my punishment.  Please,
 don't let people like me kill you."
     The announcement, filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, funded by The
 Cleveland Clinic and directed by American History X director, Tony Kaye, will
 be shown on more than 30 screens in the Cleveland area, where Eszterhas lives.
     Jonathan Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas, said, "I only hope other
 exhibitors nationwide will have the courage to take this vital message to the
 masses of people who are killing themselves with tobacco."
     "We're working around the clock with Joe and Jon Forman to get this
 message into as many theaters as possible across America," said Angela Calman,
 chief communications officer for The Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
     "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,
 resulting in more than 440,000 deaths each year.  When it comes to smoking,
 quitters are winners," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona.  "I
 commend the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout and the 'Join
 Joe' Eszterhas campaign for helping people to quit smoking and begin living
 longer, healthier lives."
     "Hollywood simply has to confront its complicity in the deaths of millions
 of smokers," Eszterhas said.  "For the past year and a half, I have been
 engaged in a struggle both through the media and behind the scenes, to ban
 smoking in films.  I have gotten nowhere.  By filming this public service
 announcement, I have decided to go in another direction: to warn the public,
 minutes before a movie begins, about the glamorization of smoking which that
 movie might contain.  I am hoping that my cancer and my voice will neutralize
 the pro-smoking message in the movie."
     Eszterhas's films -- which include Flashdance, Jagged Edge and Basic
 Instinct -- have grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office.  He is
 the first major Hollywood figure to criticize his own role in the
 glamorization of smoking on screen and to call for a voluntary industry-wide
 ban of smoking in films.
     Eszterhas's anti-smoking-in-movies message is one of three public service
 announcements he filmed recently.  The other messages are aimed at young
 people: "Cancer isn't cool," Eszterhas says in another message. "Cancer isn't
 hip or rock and roll.  Cancer hurts, cancer makes you cry, and then it kills
     All three spots are being sent by The Cleveland Clinic to 300 local
 television stations across the country.  WKYC, the NBC affiliate in Cleveland,
 will be the first station in the country to run the PSA's beginning Wednesday,
 Nov. 19.  Portions of the three spots also will be shown this week on
 television news programs and websites like WebMD.
     The public service announcements are the beginning of a larger Cleveland
 Clinic Foundation initiative called "Join Joe."  The "Join Joe" campaign is an
 effort to provide support for those seeking help quitting smoking through a
 non-commercial website that will link people to a variety of free programs and
 information.  The site also will be a call to action for smokers to "Join Joe"
 in quitting tobacco.  It will invite people to join Joe and provide a forum
 for public support of their actions.  Eszterhas will kick off the "Join Joe"
 campaign with a one-hour internet chat in partnership with WebMD at noon EST,
 Thursday, Nov. 20, as part of the Great American Smokeout.  To Join Joe, log
 on to .
     Doctors at The Cleveland Clinic, a not-for-profit academic medical center
 ranked as one of the nation's best hospitals, will take part in the chat, too.
 Eszterhas was successfully treated at The Cleveland Clinic for his throat
 cancer, which is now in remission.
     "Joe Eszterhas's story is truly a medical miracle, a Hollywood ending,"
 said Dr. Marshall Strome, chairman of The Cleveland Clinic's Department
 Otolaryngology and Communicative Disorders.  "He woke up and changed his life,
 and he's committed to changing yours, too.  I have the utmost respect for
     In January, Eszterhas will host a weekly one-hour anti-smoking program to
 be called "Join Joe" on WebMD, one of the most frequented websites in the
     "Quitting smoking," Eszterhas said, "was the most difficult thing I've
 ever done.  I started smoking when I was 12 years old and was a four-pack-a-
 day smoker at the end.  I was obviously terribly addicted.  I know that if I
 could stop, others can.  I have the greatest compassion in the world for
 smokers -- and the greatest loathing in the world for tobacco companies and
 their allies."
     "As soon as you quit smoking, your circulation improves and carbon
 monoxide levels in your blood start declining," said Carmona.  "Your pulse
 rate and blood pressure, which are abnormally high while smoking, immediately
 start returning to normal.  One year after quitting, your risk of heart
 disease is cut in half, and over the next several years it continues to
 decrease.  It's never to late to quit."
     In a New York Times op-ed last year, Eszterhas wrote, "A cigarette in the
 hands of a Hollywood star on screen 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.'  Those lofty words are lies designed, at
 best, to obscure laziness.  I know.  I have told those lies."

SOURCE The Cleveland Clinic Foundation