CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers Campaign
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is continuing its national tobacco education campaign—Tips From Former Smokers (Tips)—with hard-hitting new TV commercials that feature real people who have experienced the harms caused by smoking. The ads began to air across the United States in July 2014. The ads underscore the immediate and long-term damage smoking can do to the body.
- Amanda started smoking in fifth grade, and by age 13 she smoked every day, even outside during Wisconsin’s bitter cold winters. While in college, newly engaged—and still smoking a pack a day—Amanda learned she was pregnant. Her daughter was born 2 months early, which is a danger for all pregnant women who smoke. The tiny baby girl spent weeks in a hospital incubator. “I couldn’t hold her much in those first weeks. It’s time I’ll never get back. Smoking took that from me,” said Amanda.
- Brett lives in New Mexico and started smoking at age 16 to impress a girl. By his mid-30s, he had gum disease—a danger for all smokers—where the tissues and bones holding Brett’s teeth in place were breaking down. By age 42, he had to have most of his teeth removed, including 16 during one surgery. Even then, he continued to smoke. “There I would be, standing outside having a cigarette,” Brett said. “I was still completely addicted and in denial.” After trying several times, Brett finally quit smoking. He now knows that he can’t smoke even one puff, or he could relapse. Brett hopes that sharing his story will convince smokers to quit as soon as possible. “My wake-up call was losing most of my teeth,” he says. Brett has now been smokefree for 4 years.
- Brian was in good health, working in California, and managing his HIV—the virus that can cause AIDS. But smoking, combined with HIV, led to clogged blood vessels. At age 43, he had a blood clot in his lungs, a stroke, and surgery on an artery in his neck. “It took a stroke for me to actually stop smoking,” said Brian. For months after the stroke, Brian had trouble speaking and reading. He couldn’t work or even dress himself. Today, his right hand is still weak, so he can no longer work as a waiter or teach pottery classes.
- With every bite she eats, Felicita remembers how smoking hurt her health. Felicita grew up in New York and started smoking at age 12. She smoked for 33 years but didn’t realize that cigarettes added to her dental problems. Felicita developed gum disease and lost all her teeth by age 50. Today, Felicita loves being a nonsmoker, but she doesn’t smile much anymore because she’s embarrassed to have false teeth. “I feel like I destroyed my health and my appearance with cigarettes.”
- Rose grew up in a small Texas town, and at age 13 she started smoking. After several years, she settled into a two–pack–a–day cigarette addiction and nearly lost a foot because of clogged blood vessels. Before Rose could have surgery on her leg, a chest x-ray showed that she had lung cancer, which later spread to her brain. Two surgeries later, Rose stays in close contact with her cancer doctors. “I regret picking up smoking in the first place,” said Rose.
- Shawn lives in Washington state and started smoking at age 14 to fit in at a new school. In his mid–forties, a chronic cough and laryngitis turned out to be throat cancer. He endured 38 radiation treatments and finally quit smoking—but doctors were unable to save his larynx. He now has a stoma (opening) that allows him to breathe and a laryngeal implant that allows him to speak.
- Terrie lived in North Carolina and began smoking in high school. At 40, she was diagnosed with oral and throat cancers and had her larynx removed. Terrie fought cancer courageously before her death at age 53 in the fall of 2013. In this new ad, filmed days before Terrie passed away, she gives straightforward tips on quitting smoking. More than anything, Terrie wanted to help motivate smokers to quit so they could avoid the pain and suffering that she went through.
Smoking causes a wide variety of severe health problems, and living with these health problems can be very difficult for the smoker and for their families. Statistics show that Americans pay a high price in illnesses and deaths due to tobacco use. Unfortunately, even though smoking rates have declined over the years, tobacco use still results in far too many deaths, disabilities, and smoking-related illnesses.
- Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause more than 480,000 deaths a year in the United States.2 They are also among the main causes of early disability.
- For every smoking-related death, at least 30 Americans live with a smoking-related illness.2 These illnesses include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD makes it hard to breathe and can lead to an early death. Smoking can also make other health conditions—such as diabetes—much worse.
“Most smokers want to quit. They don’t want to suffer, or be a burden on their families,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “By showing how real people and their families are affected by smoking-related diseases, the Tips campaign can help motivate people to quit for good.”
CDC launched the first Tips From Former Smokers campaign in 2012 to lower smoking rates and save lives. A CDC study published in The Lancet shows that 1.6 million smokers tried to quit during the campaign period. Researchers estimate that more than 100,000 will likely quit smoking permanently. These results far exceed the campaign’s original goals of 500,000 quit attempts and 50,000 successful quits.1
For more information about the Tips campaign and resources for quitting smoking, visit:
UK: Smokefree NHS
- 1. McAfee T, Davis KC, Alexander RL, Pechacek TF, Bunnel R. Effect of the First Federally Funded US Antismoking National Media Campaign. The Lancet 2013 Sep 9. Epub ahead of print. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61686-4.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2014 May 26].