1991 Handwritten Letter to Terry Farrell

This handwritten letter to Terry Farrell, published in the Baltimore Sun in 1991, may be what they call a “call out post” today. For those who do not know, Farrell was the face of Virginia Slims cigarettes before transitioning to being an actress. The best part was “Why are you using your beauty to kill?”

DEAR Terry Farrell,

I’m 13 years old and I’ve noticed the new ad you’ve made for Virginia Slims. I saw you on reruns of “Family Ties” and called NBC to get your name and address.

You are so pretty. Your sequin dress is awesome. All my friends and I would love to look like you. Do you smoke? Or are you just posing for this ad? if you do smoke, you should realize that smoking isn’t a glamorous thing, it’s dirty and deadly.

You’re so gorgeous, and you look so young – you could pass for 16. I have a friend who looks a lot like you. Her name is Jackie. Both her parents smoke and she hates it, but will do anything to be cool and pretty. She really looks up to you and sees herself in you. She loves your ad. She wants to look like you (we all do) and she thinks smoking is the answer. Cigarette companies would say they don’t want kids to smoke, but when they have models like you to advertise their product, they really play up to teen-agers like me and my friends. We’re the future and we’re the next generation of smokers in the mind of the cigarette industry. Please help us fight this. I want our generation to be smoke-free, but we all have to help.

All women look at models as an ideal of what they want to look like. Equal opportunity is what your ad talks about. Equal opportunity to do what? Smoke, get sick and die? This really encourages women to smoke by saying that women will be more successful and beautiful if they smoke. I think that’s a big lie. The ad says, “you’ve come a long way, baby.” What does this mean? To kids it means that if you smoke you are more grown up and to women it gives the message that you’re a liberated woman. Women have come a long way, but not by smoking cigarettes.

How do you feel about the possibility that your ad has already inspired hundreds of young girls to start smoking – maybe even my friend, Jackie? In 40 years most will be dead or dying of lung cancer and many other awful diseases you get from smoking.

I know many people who died of lung cancer from smoking and still others who have had to have their voice box removed because they developed throat cancer. My mom’s uncle died of emphysema because he smoked. Her aunt burned herself to death smoking in bed. At camp last summer a girl in my bunk cried each night. Her father had just died of lung cancer because he smoked. Have you ever seen anyone who has to put an electric thing up to their throat to talk because they had part of their throat cut out? People who start at 13 and 14 years old get addicted for life. Some of the young people who see your ad will have these things happen to them. Why are you using your beauty to kill? Would you pose for an ad for cocaine? Smoking kills over a hundred times as many people as street drugs do.

I am worried about the effect your ad will have on my friends. I am afraid they will start smoking because they want to be like you. Will you please write back to me, or phone me, and tell me you will never do a cigarette ad again? And will you encourage other models to “Just Say No” to cigarette ads? Thank you. I hope to hear from you soon.


Christine Whelan