Judith is making her final plans
Smoking will be the death of her, but she is determined to go out on her own terms
IN THE 1960s, smoking was the epitome of glamour and sophistication. Big time stars made cigarettes smooth and sensual – Spencer Tracy’s Lucky Strikes were “easy on the throat” even after “throat-taxing scenes”; Barbara Stanwyck posed with an L&M Filter between her fingers; Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz raved about the “tasty mildness, rich flavour and pleasant aroma” of the Phillip Morris brand; Frank Sinatra sauntered across movie sets and stages with a Chesterfield hanging casually from his lips; and Lauren Bacall “loved to see a man smoke a Cigarillo”.
Back in suburban Australia, 17-year-old Judith Daley fell for big tobacco’s clever Hollywood idol marketing ploy that netted the industry billions while failing to tell consumers of the health risks.
“I only ever smoked menthols, which I recalled being marketed to ladies,” Judith remembers, her voice husky from years of breathing in cigarette smoke.
“It was probably about 30 a day. But if I went out drinking it could easily become 40 or 50.”
“Everybody was doing it. My mother smoked, all the boys and girls smoked. Movie stars smoked. “It was such a sophisticated thing to do.” Ironically, Judith had her first smoke in 1962 – the year that the Royal College of Physicians released its ground-breaking Smoking and Health Report that showed a clear link between cigarettes and cancer and lung disease.
While the report made waves around the world, big tobacco simply continued its spin, encouraging people like Judith to keep inhaling its products.
About 25 years after her first smoke, Judith’s body was waging what seemed like a constant war against bronchitis.
“I was sick a lot of the time,” the former private investigator turned actor says of her decision to finally quit at the age of 42.
“Back then there was this myth that if you gave up smoking, all the damage done would be gone in 12 months. “I can tell you that’s not true.” Just a few years after butting out for the last time, Judith was diagnosed with emphysema, a deadly lung condition found in many people who have smoked.
Now 72, the actor’s body is slowly waning as lung infections, asthma and bronchial scarring from pneumonia take their toll.
“The one big regret of my life is that I smoked,” Judith says of the habit that claims at least 15,000 Australians a year and costs the economy about $31.5 billion a year.
“I won’t be breathing towards the end of my life – I’ll be suffocating.”
While Judith concedes her teenage yearning to be cool will put her in an “early” grave, she is determined to make sure she leaves this world on her own terms.
Like 70% of Australians, she believes euthanasia should be legalised in our country, so over the past few years she has become an outspoken advocate for the cause.
She even ran, albeit unsuccessfully, in the 2015 NSW election on the Voluntary Euthanasia Party ticket.
Euthanasia is derived from a Greek term and simply means “good death” – and that is all Judith wants.
She says her need to die with “grace and dignity” started to take shape about a decade ago when she helped nurse her husband, Robert, as he succumbed to a chronic heart condition.
The couple spent a lot of time waiting behind those blue curtains synonymous with hospital emergency rooms, listening to other patients endure extreme pain and suffering in the “final hours” of their lives.
“We could hear these people dying – some of them were screaming, some of them were crying, some were calling for their mother,” Judith says.
“The doctors and nurses would tell us they’d given them all the pain relief possible. “I heard people having horrible deaths. “Dying is not like the movies. “You don’t just go to sleep and vanish.” The NSW and Victorian governments are expected to debate euthanasia laws in the coming 12 months.
Queensland lobbyists hope to get the ball rolling after the state goes to the polls this year or next.
Australia briefly had voluntary euthanasia laws about 21 years ago when in 1996, the Northern Territory introduced the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
During its short-lived operation, three people were legally
‘‘ I heard people having horrible deaths. Dying is not like the movies. You don’t just go to sleep and vanish.
◗ ABOVE: At 74 years old, Judith Daley hopes an Australian state will have voluntary assisted death legislation in place before she dies. She has a number of chronic diseases as a result of smoking for 25 years. TOP RIGHT: Old advertisements promoting smoking and cigarettes.