Did Rush Limbaugh Smoke? He Defended Smoking Before Lung Cancer Death

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Getty Rush Limbaugh

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died on February 17, 2021, at age 70 after battling lung cancer. His wife, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, shared the news on his radio program.

Limbaugh famously defended smoking and dismissed the health risks during an April 2015 episode of his radio show. Limbaugh shared during that particular episode that he smoked cigars. But he quit smoking cigarettes during the 1980s, as he explained in 2013.

Here’s what you need to know:

Limbaugh Claimed There Was No Health Risk From Secondhand Smoke & Downplayed the Risk of Developing Cancer From Smoking

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GettyRush Limbaugh has passed away at the age of 70.

Limbaugh did a segment about smoking for his radio show on April 17, 2015. According to the transcript available on the program’s website, Limbaugh explained that he felt the general public should be thankful to those who smoke because the sales tax helps to fund certain programs:

I’m telling you, there ought to be some measure of appreciation for people who buy tobacco products, despite the forces arrayed against them, It’s getting harder and harder to use tobacco products, unless you want to call marijuana tobacco, and you can do that anywhere, for the most part. But the fact of the matter is they have to endure a lot, the public hates them, they’re despised, they can’t smoke in places of comfort anymore, can’t even smoke outside in a park! And yet their actions and their taxes and their purchases are funding children’s health care programs. I’m just saying there ought to be a little appreciation shown for them, instead of having them hated and reviled. I would like a medal for smoking cigars, is what I’m saying.

Limbaugh also downplayed the health risks associated with a smoking habit. His argument was that it’s possible to smoke for decades and never develop cancer:

Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.

While it’s true that not every individual smoker develops cancer, the American Lung Association warns that “smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer.” The organization also notes on its website that a smoking habit accounts for about 90% of lung cancer cases in the United States.

On the topic of the dangers of secondhand smoke, Limbaugh dismissed this as a “myth.” He claimed the World Health Organization had concluded secondhand smoke was not dangerous but that the report had been “suppressed,” according to the episode transcript. It’s unclear how Limbaugh arrived at this conclusion. The World Health Organization highlights the risk from exposure to secondhand smoke on its website and cites a University of Auckland 2010 report that found “globally, more than 600,000 deaths every year are caused by passive smoking (1% of all deaths).”

Limbaugh Started Smoking Cigarettes at 16 But Quit in the 1980s After a Bout of Bronchitis

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GettyRush Limbaugh has died

Limbaugh addressed his history as a cigarette smoker on his show on February 22, 2013. He began the segment by citing a study from the University of Toronto, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at the university’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health concluded that “smokers who quit before age 40 have a lifespan almost as long as people who never smoked,” as summarized in a news release at the time.

Limbaugh suggested that based on this research, he was “safe” because he quit smoking when he was about 30. According to the episode transcript, Limbaugh shared that he started smoking cigarettes when he was 16, around the time he attended the Elkins Institute of Radio and Electronics in Dallas.

Limbaugh went on to explain that after smoking for more than a decade, he quit around 1980 or 1981. (Limbaugh was born on January 12, 1951). Limbaugh was working for the Kansas City Royals as a director of promotions at the time, according to the Missouri Broadcasting Association.

Limbaugh shared that once the baseball season was over, he and his colleagues would play flag football with employees from the Kansas City Chiefs office in front of the office building. Limbaugh said that during this time period, he “got a real bad case of bronchitis, almost like walking pneumonia.” The illness prevented him from smoking because the cigarettes made him cough. “So I said, ‘Well, I’m never gonna have a better time than now to quit when I can’t smoke.’ So I quit then,” Limbaugh explained. Limbaugh admitted he still smoked cigars but said he didn’t inhale.

Scientists agree that a smoker’s odds of developing lung cancer decreases once they quit. But according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, former smokers are still more likely to develop lung cancer than if they had never smoked at all. The organization adds that a smoking habit also increases the risk for “heart disease, emphysema, stroke, leukemia, asthma, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.”

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