Law and Order Actress S. Epatha Merkerson on Her Attempts to Quit Smoking
Law & Order, a staple of American television. One of the longest-running and most popular shows of all time. at the center of the crime drama is hard-nosed lieutenant Anita Van Buren, played by Emmy award-winning actress s. Epatha Merkerson.
The buck really stops with her. It's her precinct, she takes care of her guys one way or the other.
But I think she's an honorable character.
On screen Merkerson has brought low-lifes to justice and seen the worst that society has to offer. But off-screen she's come face to face with an equally tough foe: nicotine addiction.
When I grew up smoking was cool. You know everybody smoked.
That included her father and every one of her four siblings. And they all started in their teens.
I was a knucklehead, though. I actually didn't start smoking until I was in my 20s. Because I figured it was time for me to be cool.
As she got older she tried quitting several times, but nothing worked.
My cigs stayed on my nightstand. Before I put my feet on the floor in the morning I lit a cig.
The heaviest I smoked was about 3 packs of cigarettes a day.
Then one day the family got a wake-up call. Her second oldest sister, Debbie, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Fortunately it was treatable.
She's alive. She survived it.
Yet Epatha continued to smoke, until one day she had her own scare.
I woke up and my analogy is it felt as if an elephant was sitting on my chest. I could not breathe. And I kept breathing, I thought, this is so ridiculous.
That motivated her to try quitting again. she hasn't had a cigarette since.
This is my friend Yvette Hawkins who passed away from lung cancer. We were the three musketeers. It's SO not cool to watch your friend die. And I watched two of my very best friends die.
It's difficult. And when you know that that person died from something they may have been able to prevent it's even more sad.
The loss of her friends was a turning point in Epatha's life. Since then she's used her fame to help get the word out about the risks of smoking, like cancer, heart disease, and countless other health problems.
Celebrity comes with responsibility sometimes people because I'm on television may listen to my personal story and take it to heart.
One of her messages: if at first you don't succeed in kicking the habit, try again. It takes up to 10 attempts for many smokers to quit for good.
It's the same sort of determination that Epatha's character shows each week in bringing the bad guys to justice.
This entry last modified on: January 24, 2013 6:13 PM
About the Video
Emmy award-winning Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson faces her smoking addiction and comes clean of nicotine.