A better survey is which celebrities probably died from smoking. Sometimes it seems very obvious, but diseases may have multiple factors in their development. Genetics, unintentional exposure to carcinogens, and many other factors are involved. For example, actor Steve McQueen died at age 50 from lung cancer. He was a smoker until about a year before his death. However, the particular form of lung cancer he died from is related to asbestos exposure with a greater risk to smokers. It is sometimes difficult to determine exactly what causes a cell to become malignant or an individual’s arteries to narrow to the point of causing his illness and death.
What Smoking Does
Smoking is a known risk factor and one that can be avoided. There’s no doubt that it has contributed to the deaths of many celebrities. Three major diseases that are often fatal have smoking as one of the major risk factors. The carcinogens in tobacco are believed to be a trigger for the formation of malignant disease of the lung and pancreas. Nicotine, the active drug in tobacco, constricts arteries every time it's used. When the arteries are already blocked by plaque, it contributes to coronary artery disease including heart attack. A complication of heart attack is heart failure, which can occur soon or long after the initial illness. Heart failure has other causes, but coronary artery disease is a primary one.
Lung cancer has robbed the world of many celebrities. The Mayo Clinic lists smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke as the major lifestyle risk factors for lung cancer. Actor Yul Brynner smoked five packs of cigarettes a day and died at age 65 from lung cancer. Desi Arnaz of “I Love Lucy” fame also died of lung cancer. Peter Jennings, an ABC News anchor, succumbed to this disease, as well. All were cigarette smokers. According to a list on the website MadeMan, Johnny Depp is a chain smoker who started the habit at age 12. Also among those listed as smokers are Kate Moss, Jack Nicholson, and Jennifer Aniston. The most notable cigarette smoker listed is the President of the United States, Barack Obama. He has been urged by his doctors to quit and has tried many times over the years.
Avoidable risks for pancreatic cancer, according to Mayo Clinic, are smoking and obesity. Luciano Pavarotti, possibly the greatest tenor of the 20th century, smoked cigars and was markedly overweight. Actor Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer at age 57 and was unable to quit smoking even after he became ill. Michael Landon, star of television’s “Little House on the Prairie” and “Bonanza” series, died of pancreatic cancer at age 54. He was a heavy smoker for most of his too-short life. Comedian Bill Hicks was only 34 when he died of this cancer that kills 80 percent of its victims, often within a year of diagnosis.
Other Diseases of Smokers
Deaths from heart-related problems are as common among celebrities as they are in the general population. Many of these deaths can be blamed at least partly on smoking. When you see the words heart attack, heart failure, stroke, emphysema, mouth cancer or throat cancer, as well as lung and pancreatic cancer, suspect a celebrity's cause of death to be smoking-related. It may have been from their own use of tobacco or their partner’s. It may have been from the smoke-filled clubs where they performed. For a list of celebrities that are living with cancer or have died from it, please see the CancerPoints website listed in Resources.