At 96 years old, Kirk Douglas is the highest-ranking living person on the American Film Institute‘s list of screen legends. That achievement would leave most people content with retiring and living in peace, but Kirk has proven to be an active community volunteer and strong advocate for certain causes — even when standing up for those causes means going against his professional trade.
“Movies should be blamed for encouraging smoking,” Kirk wrote in an opinion editorial for Huffington Post this week. “Look at some of the old pictures, everybody is smoking. Actors love it because it gives them something to do with their hands.”
Kirk revealed he didn’t always feel this way. When he moved to Hollywood 68 years ago, he was talked into smoking by a director and quickly took up a two pack a day habit.
“One day, after several years of smoking, I looked at my smoldering cigarette. What am I doing? I inhale the smoke, my lungs take all the impurities out of it and I blow out nice clean smoke.”
Kirk was further motivated to quit by his father, who died of lung cancer in 1955 even though he’d given up cigarettes years before.
“He carried one cigarette in his breast pocket. When he had the urge to smoke he took out the cigarette, stared at it, and in his Russian accent he roared ‘Who’s stronger, you — me? I stronger!’ He put the cigarette back in his breast pocket and never smoked again,” Kirk said, adding he did the same thing 40 years ago and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since.
Now smoke-free, the actor said he doesn’t understand why more people don’t follow suit.
“Of all the drugs, smoking has the highest death rate — more than 400,000 people per year (which is more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined)… Stop smoking and live longer!”
Even though Kirk managed to quit smoking nearly half a century ago, son Michael Douglas hasn’t been so successful. In 2010, Michael was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer, which may be a consequence of smoking. (Michael made news earlier this summer for saying his strain of throat cancer was caused by oral sex. However, his representative later backtracked on the comments and said that wasn’t necessarily the cause of Michael’s cancer.)
Fortunately for both father and son, Michael has been in remission since 2011. Unfortunately, photographs show Michael didn’t manage to kick his cigarette habit… Maybe Kirk was trying to send his son an indirect message with the editorial!