Smoking'll Kill Warren Zevon

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"I'm OK with it, but it'll be a drag if I don't make it until the next James Bond movie comes out."

Warren Zevon, fifty-five year-old singer of "Werewolves of London," on being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, as reported September 12 by Associated Press, which did not mention Zevon's smoking, and Reuters, which did.

Zevon, a longtime smoker, quit eight years ago. He has retained his sense of humor and his trademark logo, a skull wearing shades and smoking a cigarette.


December 31, 2003

Asbestos, Not Rock and Roll, Fells Warren Zevon!

Not tobacco-smoking...

"SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation extends its condolences to the family, friends and fans of Warren Zevon. The singer songwriter died September 7 of mesothelioma, one year after he was diagnosed. He was 56.

"News reports inaccurately refer to Zevon's cause of death as 'lung cancer' and link it to his smoking habit or other aspects of his legendary rock and roll lifestyle. But mesothelioma is not strictly a lung cancer, and it is not caused by smoking. Zevon himself described the cause of mesothelioma in his song about life in 'The Factory' and breathing the asbestos dust kicked up from the floor.

"Twenty years ago, when Steve McQueen died of mesothelioma, news reports also blamed 'lung cancer' and missed an important opportunity to raise awareness about this asbestos-caused cancer. Lack of awareness has led to lack of concern and lack of research funding. Compared to many other cancers, almost no progress was made in mesothelioma treatment in the past twenty years, and Warren's prognosis was as bleak as Steve McQueen's was twenty years earlier."

Asbestos killed Mr. Zevon:

He had quit smoking for the last eight years of his life.

This is his song about the real cause of his early demise.

"The Factory"

I was born in '63
Got a little job in the factory
I don't know much about Kennedy
I was too busy working in the factory

We got a kid that's two, we got another one due
We get by the best we can do
The factory's got a good medical plan
And, cousin, I'm a union man
Saying, Yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir

I was born in Mechanicsburg
My Daddy worked for Pontiac 'til he got hurt
Now he's on disability
And I got his old job in the factory
Saying, Yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir

Early in the morning I feel a chill
The factory whistle blows loud and clear
I'd kill my wife or she'd kill me
But we gotta go to work at the factory
Five days a week at the factory
Up early in the morning at the factory
I've been working in the factory
Johnny, I've been working in the factory
Kickin' asbestos in the factory
Breathin' that plastic in the factory
Punchin' out Chryslers in the factory
Makin' polyvinyl chloride in the factory...

-Warren Zevon


Seavey replies:

Little-known fact: even in the factory and ship-building settings where heavy, frequent workplace exposure produced asbestos-related lung disease in decades past, that disease occurred primarily in smokers. Lung disease in non-smokers exposed to asbestos was only slightly elevated (and, by the way, there is virtually no evidence of disease from asbestos in non-workplace, non-heavy-exposure settings, making the asbestos removal craze of the past few decades a waste of money and possibly counter-productive in health terms).