Anti-smoking poster boy still puffing away?

Lost leg, but can't kick the habit
January 14, 2008 3:11:31 PM PST
He's had multiple heart attacks, a stroke and an amputation, but Skip Legault is still a smoker. The one-legged poster boy for New York's anti-smoking campaign, who describes his blood clots and the smell of his rotting foot in a TV commercial, has apparently been unable to kick the habit.

In fact, Legault told the New York Daily News that he smokes half a pack of cigarettes every day.

"The more I watch my commercials, the sicker it makes me feel," the 48-year-old Legault told the Daily News.

The state-sponsored spots began running in the Tri-State area in late last year, and some of Legault's neighbors in upstate Ogdensburg are apparently confused by the commercial.

"They wonder why I'm doing what I'm doing and I'm still smoking and telling everybody to quit," Legault told the newspaper. "I don't tell anyone to quit smoking. I tell people the effect smoking does to me and people I've been in contact with."

State health officials are aware that Legault is still a smoker, he said, though that fact is omitted in the "Skip in the Park" commerical. The printed ad is a little clearer, reading, "Cigarette smoking is killing Skip Legault. Don't let it kill you."

The Daily News reported that Legault was one of 100 people who volunteered to share his story as part of a new anti-smoking media campaign created at the health department.

He was among four selected to participate, because his case could show New Yorkers that smoking can cause gangrene, according to the newspaper.

Legault said he first smoked when he was just 8 years old, after stealing cigarettes from his parents.

"When my parents first caught me smoking, they made me eat a whole pack of cigarettes," he told the Daily News. "That didn't cure it, either. It just made one thing for sure: You never wanted to eat another one."

He told the paper that he thinks his rare, smoking-related illness, which is an inflammatory and circulatory disorder called Buerger's disease, began in childhood.

His family apparently assumed it was growing pains.

As he says in the commercial, Legault had two heart attacks by his late 20s. Since then, he has suffered a stroke and at least seven blood clots. He was twice forced to have part of his leg amputated after his foot began stinking from the gangrene.

Legault uses crutches, because a clot in his groin makes it impossible to use a prosthetic.

He says his doctors plead with him to quit, but he continues to smoke, in part because of fears that quitting will fatally alter the effects of the 13 medications he takes daily.

"I know I'm sick," he told the Daily News. "I know how sick I am. I know I could die today. If people knew how bad cigarettes are, maybe they wouldn't do it."