Jack Klugman — 1922-2012 — “the only stupid thing I did in my life was to start smoking”


I remember watching the Odd Couple when I was a kid. It was one of my favourite shows.

Jack Klugman had a long life, but he had myriad health problems the last 30 years, mostly caused by his heavy cigar and cigarette smoking. In fact, in both the Odd Couple and a number of other characters he played, he was usually seen chomping on a cigar. Later, he spoke out strongly against smoking being depicted on TV and in movies.

In the 1980s, he was forced to retire from acting because he got throat cancer from his smoking. He was first diagnosed with cancer of the larynx way back in 1974, and ended up suffering multiple bouts of cancer over the next 20 years.

According to his obituary:

“In 1974, Klugman was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Like Oscar, his most notable character, he always had a cigarette in his mouth. “I saw John Garfield smoke. He was my idol, so I smoked. I even smoked like him,” Klugman explained. With surgery and some treatment, he was able to continue acting, though he refused to give up smoking. In 1989, he underwent surgery again to remove the cancer, but this time his right vocal cord had to be removed, which left him without the ability to speak. Eventually, he regained it, though in a small, raspy voice.”

He  gave an interview in the 1990s about smoking, saying:

“The only really stupid thing I ever did in my life was to start smoking,” he said in 1996. He said seeing people smoking on television and films “disgusts me, it makes me so angry – kids are watching.”

Jack would be glad to know smoking is gone from TV, and nearly gone from movies now.



3 thoughts on “Jack Klugman — 1922-2012 — “the only stupid thing I did in my life was to start smoking””

  1. I hadn’t realized Jack had died just last December. Amazing how addicting nicotine is when someone who has cancer as a result of smoking will still not quit.

  2. It’s so tragic that smokers see the damage way to late, refusing to quit while suffering from cancer. Klugman was one of those, he is another victim of the tobacco industry.

Comments are closed.