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Actor John Huston Warns Others About Emphysema With PM-Obit-Huston Bjt

August 29, 1987 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ An advertisement on emphysema by director John Huston, who died following a bout with pneumonia complicated by the lung disease, may be shown before the planned release, the American Lung Association says.

The 30-second public service announcement, was to have been aired Jan. 1, the association said following Huston’s death Friday in Middletown, R.I.

The organization said it hoped Huston would focus attention on the crippling disease.

″He talks about how he made a lot of films about heroes but he didn’t really know what a hero was until he came down with emphysema and he found out what kind of courage and stamina it takes to deal with the disease,″ said lung association spokeswoman Michele Kling.

Huston was a longtime smoker who in his later years was tied to an oxygen tank.

He was in Rhode Island for filming of the movie ″Mr. North,″ directed by his son, Danny, and co-starring his daughter, Anjelica. Huston was executive producer. He was to have starred in the film, but turned over the role to Robert Mitchum after he was hospitalized for pneumonia complicated by emphysema. He was released last week.

Some 2 million Americans suffer from emphysema and an ancillary disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema kills an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 people yearly, according to the lung association.

Both emphsyema and chronic bronchitis are frequently caused by long-term smoking, Ms. Kling said. The main warning sign of emphysema is shortness of breath.

Ms. Kling stressed that the figure on the number of people who die annually from emphysema was an estimate and may even be higher since the disease is not always listed as the cause of death.

Emphysema breaks down the walls of the microscopic air sacs in the lungs, leaving cavities and making breathing difficult.

It also frequently results in enlarged hearts; the cause of death may sometimes be listed as heart disease, Ms. Kling said.

Antibiotics can be used to make breathing attacks less severe but emphysema remains an incurable disease, the spokeswoman said.

She said the average life expectancy for a person with emphysema after diagnosis is 8 1/2 years. That figure can be extended as much as 12 to 15 years if there aren’t any major complications and the patient gives up smoking.


″It is a totally preventable disease,″ Ms. Kling said. ″Eighty-five to 90 percent of emphysema cases are caused by smoking and the U.S. surgeon general has said that it would be a rare disease in this country if people did not smoke.″

The number of emphysema cases has increased 900 percent in the last 40 years. ″It was once a disease that almost exclusively victimized men,″ Ms. Kling said. ″But now with more and more women smoking, one out of every four emphysema patients are women.″

The disease may take as long as 25 years to develop.

″That’s the problem. Often, you may be developing the disease and not even know it,″ Ms. Kling said. ″The lungs can take a lot of abuse before they start to give you trouble.″