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Smokers' Stories: Lost Teeth, a Tiny Baby

Smoker's Ad: You think a lot about teeth when you don't have any - Felicita, age 54, FloridaMeet the real people in CDC's graphic new ads. They want to be your reason to quit smoking for good.

No one who picks up smoking as a teenager expects that their teeth will start falling out at age 40. But that's exactly what happened to Felicita and Brett, two real people who tell their stories in CDC's Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign. New, hard-hitting commercials appear across the United States starting July 7, 2014. The ads urge smokers to quit and to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) if they want free help.

Smoking causes immediate and long-term damage to the body. The former smokers featured in the campaign share very personal stories of their own suffering to inspire smokers to quit. Seven people from across the country are featured in the newest Tips campaign.

Smoking Destroys a Smile

Cigarette smoke is a well-known cause of yellow teeth, but it's a surprise to many people that it can lead to tooth loss. The connection is gum disease (periodontal disease), an infection of the gums and the bone structure that supports your teeth. In severe cases, gum disease can make your teeth fall out. If you smoke:

  • You are twice as likely to have gum disease than a nonsmoker.
  • The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.
  • The longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.

Felicita and Brett, two new Tips participants, learned the hard way that smoking can ruin your teeth.

Brett started smoking at age 16 to impress a girl. By his midthirties, he had gum disease, and by age 42, he had to have most of his teeth removed, including 16 during one surgery. After trying to quit several times, Brett was finally successful. He now knows that he can't smoke even one puff, or he could relapse. "My wake-up call was losing most of my teeth," he says. Brett has now been smokefree for 4 years.

Felicita started smoking at age 12 and continued for many years, but she didn't realize that smoking added to her dental problems. Like many people with gum disease, she did not have much pain as the disease got worse. At age 50, Felicita went to the dentist to have one tooth pulled and was shocked to learn that all her teeth needed to come out. Today, Felicita loves being a nonsmoker, but she doesn't smile much anymore because she's embarrassed about having false teeth. Tips campaign ads tell Felicita's story in English and Spanish.

Staying away from cigarettes and maintaining good dental habits are important to help avoid gum disease. That means brushing, flossing to remove plaque, and seeing a dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.

Smoking, Pregnancy, and Babies

Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems in a mother and her baby. A baby may to be born too early, have a birth defect, or die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even being around cigarette smoke can cause health problems for a mother and baby.

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. Her tiny baby girl spent weeks in a hospital incubator.

"Cancer. It's not going to happen to me."

Rose grew up in a small Texas town and started smoking at age 13. Over time, she developed 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 midforties, 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 age 40, she was diagnosed with oral and throat cancers and had her larynx removed. Terrie courageously fought cancer before her death at age 53 in the fall of 2013. She shares a powerful message in a new ad, filmed days before she passed away. More than anything, Terrie wanted to help motivate smokers to quit so they could avoid the pain and suffering that she went through.

Smoking and HIV

If you have HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, smoking is especially dangerous to your health. If you smoke:

  • You're more likely to develop the harmful consequences of smoking than people without HIV. These illnesses include cancer, heart disease, or stroke.
  • You're more likely to develop HIV-related infections than a nonsmoker with HIV. These illnesses include thrush (a mouth infection) and Pneumocystis pneumonia, a dangerous lung infection.

Brian was in good health, working in California, and managing his HIV when his life changed dramatically. Smoking cigarettes, 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.

Resources for Quitting

People who stop smoking can greatly reduce their risk for disease and early death. The younger you are when you quit, the better your chances of avoiding health problems. The following resources can help you quit smoking:

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