Smoking Woman

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for women. Every year, 140,000 women die from tobacco-related diseases. One woman has a powerful message against smoking.

When cancer survivor and ex-cigarette model Janet Sackman speaks, people listen. The one-time cover girl for Lucky Strike cigarettes lost her voicebox, part of a lung and nearly her life to cancer. She spent years chain-smoking. “It was glamorous. It was sophisticated in those days. Everyone smoked,” she says.

Janet smoked her first cigarette in 1949. A tobacco executive asked her to take a puff for a billboard photo. Eager to please, the 17-year-old model inhaled. She Initially hated it but was soon hooked, smoking a pack-and-a-half a day. “I tried to quit every day, but I just couldn’t,” says Janet.

Her cover girl days were long behind her when Janet was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1983. Doctors warned she could lose her larynx. She woke up from the operation unable to speak. “I was shivering and tried to call a nurse, but no sound came out,” she says.

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for women. Clearly it’s now a greater killer than breast cancer, and it seems to be harder for women to quit.

It took Janet a full year to learn to speak again. Now she’s using what’s left of her voice to save lives. She travels the country trying to educate children about the dangers of smoking. She often receives letters from children who decided not to smoke after hearing her speak. She says that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

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