The link between celebrities and smoking is a difficult one to figure. The celebrity world is based almost entirely on looks and image and since smoking just about ruins your looks it’s truly astounding to see so many celebrities sticking with the smoking habit.
Over twenty years ago and more – dermatologists were talking about something they started to call “smokers face” typical of many heavy smokers. Now we’re told smoking accelerates skin aging by around 10-15 years.
So why do celebrities continue to smoke when they risk so much from the aging effects of smoking on their skin?
Even if, by some strange twist of fate, celebrities themselves manage to remain ignorant of the effects of smoking on skin aging, they have armies of advisors and image consultants.
Surely someone in their inner circle could warn them about recent research – how smoking dehydrates the skin, destroys vitamin C, damages collagen, accelerates wrinkling and produces the classic ‘smokers face’.
Its impossible to believe that reasonably intelligent people can remain ignorant of these essential facts. Celebrities must know that smoking will damage their looks and prematurely age them and yet they choose to carry on – all the while spending small fortunes on personal trainers, nutritionists, plastic surgeons and anti aging creams and lotions.
Could it be that the average Hollywood celebrity has been influenced by the glamour associated with smoking cigarettes? Perhaps if you spend long enough in the fantasy world of film you start to believe in the celluloid image. Just like Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ you lose touch with reality.
After all, it’s not so long ago that everybody who was a somebody in Hollywood smoked and was proud of it. Cigarette smoking was glamorous and sophisticated. Just think of Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ as Holly Golightly posing elegantly with her long cigarette holder, upswept chignon and little black dress.
What’s not so elegant of course is the way Audrey Hepburn succumbed to the smoking habit herself. Ignoring her mother’s ‘beauty tip’ to: “keep to six cigarettes a day only”, Hepburn managed two or three packs at her worst times – even smoking in her nun’s habit on the set of ‘The Nun’s Story’ and chain smoking her way through ‘My Fair Lady’.
Unsurprisingly, she suffered from asthma for most of her life and died of cancer at only 63 – looking frail and old for her years. Not the kind of ending we like to imagine for the sublime Holly Golightly.
There’s no doubt that the very nature of the movie business has caused many a celebrity to start treading the nicotine path. Smoking is as common in movies today as it was back in the 1950’s although overall smoking in the population at large – the Western half anyway – has reduced.
Could it be that a cigarette has become the film prop of choice for actors looking for an easy way to become someone else on screen.
For some celebrities – tired of the constant criticism and the ciggy shots splashed across the tabloids – a kind of smoking defiance crept in. As Gwyneth Paltrow once said, “I smoke and I’m not going to stop!”
Paltrow – famous for getting through a pack of Camel Lights a day in her teens and twenties – has only recently quit smoking. Perhaps she started to wonder how her fine, fair skin and ethereal beauty would cope with the collagen depletion later in life.
Some celebrities keep going with the smoking habit whatever the consequences and even if it messes up their relationships. It’s well known that smoking was a bone of contention between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston during their marriage but it was Brad that left and Jennifer carried on smoking.
Similarly, iconic top model Kate Moss is regularly photographed with her cigarette, a lighter and a mobile phone as her only fashion accessory. As a supreme super model its probably not surprising that she still manages to appear elegant and beautiful however she’s photographed – at least for now.
When many Hollywood celebrities chose to quit smoking it’s fascinating that the reasons given are so often not about looks. Catherine Zeta-Jones said she quit smoking because she didn’t want her children to start asking questions. Not – as you might have thought – because smoking would accelerate skin aging and undermine her potential to earn huge sums of money.
Whatever the reasons celebrities have for smoking or for deciding to quit smoking – the truth about skin damage and smoking very rarely features in the debate.
Surely it’s about time it did? Of course celebrity smokers are free to carry on smoking as much as they like – but they can’t expect the tabloids and fanzines to ignore the damage smoking does to their looks.
So when middle age arrives and the ‘smokers face’ is revealed – smoking celebs may need lots of time in make up before a close up – just like Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’.