Irish anti-smoking campaigner Gerry Collins dies at age 57

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gerry Collins, star of Ireland's QUIT anti-smoking ad campaign, died yesterday morning. He was 57 and had terminal lung cancer.

A woman stops to enjoy a cigarette in Venezuela.
Image: Carlos Huerta.
The reality is that I'm not an actor. I am dying.

—Gerry Collins in a QUIT ad

Collins began smoking at seventeen but had stopped by the time he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2008. He described the treatment as "horrendous" and was featured by the QUIT campaign in 2011 after defeating the illness. He was later diagnosed again with cancer, this time of the lung and terminal.

"I wish I was an actor," he says in the two TV ads he filmed last year, "because if I was an actor I'd be acting about dying. The reality is that I'm not an actor. I am dying."

A keen sportsman, Collins played football for Dublin and his local Kilmacud Crokes team. As well as TV, he also appeared in radio and Internet ads. The national Health Service Executive credits him with convincing 60,000 people to try to stop smoking.

The Greystones, County Wicklow resident features in two more TV ads due to air this week. In accordance with his wishes they will run as planned despite his death. His family released a statement saying they are "incredibly proud" of him and that he "loved hearing the many stories of people who had quit after seeing his ads or hearing his interviews."