Arnold Schwarzenegger
April 17th, 2010

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Dear John,

As a body-builder, I am very interested in my health. I’ve heard that you are also a body builder. Now we (in California) have a governor who understands the importance of working out and being healthy. I want to be as ripped as Arnold.


Dear Frank,

Weight-lifting, like many other forms of exercise, has numerous health benefits. Personally, I enjoy it, and I’m glad you do, too. I’m afraid, though, that I don’t see California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a role model the way you do.

For one thing, he has acknowledged that he used steroids to achieve the massive muscle size on which his body-builder career and fame were based. For another, I can’t forget that many of his movies have glorified violence. I know this is common in movies today, but that doesn’t make it healthy for individuals or for society.

And there’s something else. The California Governor, who once headed the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, is an advocate of cigar smoking.

If Arnold wants to destroy his lungs, that’s his right. But he is in a unique position of fame and fortune, and I regret that he is using his celebrity status among young fans to make smoking look cool. He has appeared twice on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine, and he frequently smokes cigars at public events.

In a recent letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association wrote, “We are deeply disappointed at several recent public depictions of your use and promotion of cigars and urge you to refrain from modeling this dangerous habit.”

Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger’s penchant for cigar smoking is beginning to effect public policy. You may know that California laws ban smoking in offices, bars, and restaurants. But Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed converting the state Capitol’s interior courtyard into a “smoking plaza.” His plan would entail removing part of the Capitol’s roof to create an area where the governor and legislators could smoke.

In a time of severe budget crisis, spending substantial state money for such a project seems irresponsible, at best.

The good news is that the cost of smoking is becoming ever more clear. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that each pack of cigarettes smoked in the United Sates costs society $7.18 in health care and lost productivity.

Meanwhile, evidence of the damaging effects of smoking on human health continues to accumulate. Today there are more than 25 known tobacco-related diseases, including heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses, and several forms of cancer. Recent research findings show that smoking increases breast cancer in women by 30 percent and contributes to impotence in men. The constriction and blockage of small blood vessels that can prevent an erection in men who smoke is a forerunner of the blockage of the larger coronary arteries that leads to heart disease.

Cigar smoking and the use of steroids have in common that they both often lead to male impotence. It would be ironic if one day we saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in ads for Viagra. (He probably wouldn’t appear in the ads, though, even if he needs the medication, because it wouldn’t exactly enhance his macho image.)

I recognize that the former body-builder Governor is seen as a symbol of fitness and health by many people. Unfortunately, there is a gap between this perception and the reality of his habits.

I wish you all the best in your efforts to care for your health and your body. I do think, though, that you could find better models to emulate than Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s a lot more to health than having huge muscles. Never forget that the size of a man’s heart and the strength of his wisdom is more meaningful than the size of his biceps and the weight he can bench press.


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