Winona Ryder: I’m No Joe Camel

E! Online, April 11 1997

Winona Ryder: I’m No Joe Camel

By Elizabeth Johns

Winona Ryder feels her image is going up in smoke.

Anti-tobacco activists have targeted her for promoting the nicotine lifestyle. The problem is, Ryder says she’s not really a smoker. “I smoke like once in a while socially,” Ryder told USA Today. “I’m sick of this ‘Winona smokes’ thing.”

The actress says her torment began a few months ago when 60 Minutes aired a segment on smoking in films — which included Joseph A. Califano Jr., former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for Jimmy Carter’s administration, singling out Ryder’s movie roles as harmful. “Winona Ryder has probably done more damage to young girls and encouraged more young girls to smoke than any other actress in America, I think, because she does smoke all the time in every single movie that she makes,” Califano said on the news segment.

Winona Ryder smoking on Reality BitesThis week, Molly Patterson, a teen from Petaluma, Calif., Ryder’s hometown, began gathering more than 100 signatures on a letter asking Ryder to quit smoking, both in movies and in real life.

“We could hardly hope for a more ideal role model,” the letter reads. “Except for one little thing. Well, not so little, really. You smoke way too much in your movies…You do have a powerful effect on teenagers… some of it is deadly.”

Ryder called Patterson Thursday. “I told her she was doing a good thing,” Ryder said. “She just had the wrong target.” The actress says she wants an apology from Califano. (He wasn’t available for comment today.)

Ryder did puff her way through Heathers, Reality Bites and How to Make an American Quilt but went cold turkey in The Age of Innocence. She can’t promise she’ll never smoke again — on or off screen, she says.

“As much as people want to call us role models,” Ryder says, “we’re actors first. It’s up to individuals to decide whether to smoke. I don’t apologize for smoking onscreen… When I grew up, I did not smoke… I was not influenced to smoke by watching 8,000 Humphrey Bogart movies.”