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John Wayne’s Change of Heart About Smoking Cigarettes

Does smoking cigarettes mean getting lung cancer? Just ask John Wayne. What a contrast between these two videos from one of the greatest actors who ever lived (and who did over 200 movies). The first video was shot in 1952 as an ad for promoting “good-tasting” Camel cigarettes, and the second was 20 years later, when he did a public service announcement for the American Cancer Society about his lung cancer. Watch these short clips and continue reading below.

According to various sources, John Wayne was a six pack a day chain smoker starting as a young adult. As he stated in the Camel ad: “I have been smoking for 20 years” and that Camel cigarettes were: “cool, mild, and good-tasting”.

Sure enough, in 1964 he had his entire left lung removed because of “a baseball size cancer”. Fortunately for the Wayne family, and for his fans worldwide, his surgeon did a great operation and he had a successful outcome. John Wayne beat lung cancer in 1964; however he died 15 years later after a struggle with cancer of the stomach. During this difficult period, he became passionate about helping others fight this terrible disease.

To honor his memory, the Wayne Family created the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF). Their mission is to bring courage, strength and grit to the fight against cancer. The JWCF funded the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica california, under the direction of Dr Donald Morton one of the premier surgeons in the world.

John Wayne was “True Grit”. What is grit? As described on the JWCF website, “Grit is bravery. A fighting spirit. Guts. Determination. It’s standing up for what you believe in and taking care of the people you love. John Wayne put it best when he said, “courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne’s legacy lives on, his cancer crusade is finally taking hold, and his story about smoking and lung cancer from decades ago is still timely and relevant today!

On a related note, see Peter Jenning’s last broadcast before his death from lung cancer.

For more information about lung cancer, go to our companion website.  For more information about the John Wayne Foundation, go to, and for more information about the John Wayne Cancer Institute, go to

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2 Comments → “John Wayne’s Change of Heart About Smoking Cigarettes”

  1. Suzanne Nelson says:

    This is a great testament to learning from experience. But what a hard lesson to learn!
    What about second hand smoke? If it is dangeous to health, why is smoking allowed in and around apartments and condos?

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