Comics Heavily Exposed to Workplace Smoke: Rene Hicks says there is a reason that 'humor' rhymes with 'tumor'
Secondhand smoke is no joke, but world-renowned comic Rene Hicks is using her
gift of laughter to get audiences to consider the health dangers of smokefilled
workplaces. Rene knows the dangers firsthand.
A lifelong nonsmoker and a former All-American athlete, Rene was diagnosed in 2001 with lung cancer cancer that she incurred by performing in smoke-filled comedy clubs.
A veteran performer on the national comedy circuit and TV programs such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Dave Chappelle Show, Politically Incorrect, and even her own half-hour special on Comedy Central, Rene Hicks is one of the most successful comics in the business.
No doctors ever asked me if I was exposed to secondhand smoke, said Rene. They thought it was heartburn, since I was a nonsmoker with no history of cancer in the family. Plus, the doctors may have assumed that because I live in California, secondhand smoke was a non-issue. But I travel all over the country and around the world, and many places still allow smoking indoors in comedy clubs. She has survived her bout with cancer following the removal of half a lung and a bunch of lymph nodes and is now back into her career, with the condition that she only perform in smokefree venues.
After I was diagnosed with cancer, many comics and club owners were fearful and, basically, didnt want to hear about it, explained Rene. They wanted to rationalize that it couldnt happen to them. Well, Im here to say that smokefree air does matter. Any exposure to secondhand smoke can kill you.
Its Shared Air
I started talking with audience members after shows about the issue and found that many of them were as miserable with secondhand smoke as I was, Rene said. So I started dealing with it [SHS] directly in my material. I can help people think, Wow. That could happen to me, but in a way that uses humor and doesnt make people retreat.
Club owners were initially reluctant to schedule smokefree shows for me out of fear of losing some business. Well, I lost half a lung, so it is important for me. I was a distance runner, and a great athlete, and my health is important, she continued.
The fact is that most people are nonsmokers. The shared air we breathe
means that these indoor places need to be smokefree, or everyone inside is at
risk. Those ventilation systems just dont do the trick for
making the air safe.
The Smokefree Movement
As I started speaking out about the issue, I wondered why more people
havent actively come on board for smokefree air ... such as high-profile
musicians who are affected by the problem, national political leaders, the religious
right, and other national groups outside of the traditional public health community.
Many people still dont get it. They still dont think its serious.
Our society is very visual and likes a jingle and music video. I know this can
changed and that I can help.
Rene is actively speaking up about smokefree air by meeting with local advocates in cities where she performs. She has often volunteered to speak with media and has even appearing in TV ads about the issue. Rene will be an attendee at ANR Foundations Fallen Leaf Lake Retreat later this year.