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Tips™ Campaign Matte Article for American Indians/Alaska Natives

This prewritten matte article about the Tips From Former Smokers™ campaign is ready for adaptation and use by journalists, bloggers, and other members of the media.

CDC Continues Tips From Former Smokers™ Campaign

“I was suffocating to death!"

That’s how Michael—an Alaska Native and member of the Tlingit tribe—thinks back to why he quit smoking. Michael tried his first cigarette at the age of 9 and was addicted to cigarettes for most of his adult life. At age 44, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD—a condition that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema—that makes it harder and harder to breathe. He ignored the symptoms until age 52, when he awoke gasping for air. He quit smoking that day. Since then, Michael had part of his lungs removed to make it easier to breathe. Michael now needs a lung transplant. In 2008, his doctor gave him 5 years to live, which is why he is called a ghost walker by some people in his tribe.

Nathan, a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, had never smoked cigarettes. Nathan used to be active and athletic, and he loved to participate in tribal dance competitions. For 11 years, he worked at a casino that allowed smoking. The exposure to secondhand smoke triggered asthma attacks and caused him to develop serious infections that eventually led to permanent lung damage called bronchiectasis. “The casino was filled with smoke from so many people smoking," he said. Breathing in other people's smoke on a daily basis made his health so bad that he felt he had to leave that job.

If you are an American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN), you likely know someone like Nathan or Michael, who are featured in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign. It could be a member of your family with smoker’s cough, someone who is struggling to breathe, or a friend with lung cancer. Cigarette smoking is more common among AI/AN adults than most other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.1 Smoking cigarettes increases the chances of losing members of your tribe or elders to smoking-related diseases before they can hand down tribal customs and traditions.

Although cigarette smoking prevalence in the general population has declined since the first Surgeon General’s Report was released in 1964, prevalence among the AI/AN population remains high. In 2014, more than 1 in 4 (29.2%) AI/AN adults in the United States smoked cigarettes, compared with nearly 1 in 6 (16.8%) U.S. adults overall. The prevalence of cigarette smoking was about 1 in 4 (or 25.6%) among AI/AN men and about 3 in 10 (or 32.5%) among AI/AN women.2

Research has shown that smoking causes a wide variety of severe health problems. Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke result in more than 480,000 deaths a year in this country and are also among the main causes of early disability. For every smoking-related death, at least 30 people live with a smoking-related illness, such as COPD and asthma. Smoking can also make other health conditions—such as diabetes—much worse.3

Cigarette smoking has declined in recent years, but the decline has been slower among certain populations, including the AI/AN population. As Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health said, “It is important that all smokers get the help they need to quit smoking. To continue to make progress, we must encourage and support everyone.”

That’s why in 2012, CDC launched the Tips campaign. The Tips campaign focuses on people with health problems caused by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. The hard-hitting ads are intended to further lower smoking rates, save lives, and prevent the kind of suffering that Michael, Nathan, and their families have endured.

Ads specifically developed for the AI/AN population feature Michael and Nathan. These ads focus on their desire to lead a full life and be with family and friends as much as possible, despite their smoking-related health problems.

Both Michael and Nathan hoped that by sharing their stories they could help other AI/AN smokers to quit. In his radio ad, Michael said, “My tip for you is to quit smoking now and live your life as a person, not a walking ghost.” Nathan’s message to teens was to not start smoking—and if they did, to quit. And he encouraged everyone to protect children from secondhand smoke. Sadly, Nathan’s lung damage led to his death on October 17, 2013. He was 54.

For more information about the Tips campaign and resources for quitting smoking, visit For help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).


  1. Mowery PD, Dube SR, Thorne SL, Garrett BE, Homa DM, Nez Henderson P. Disparities in Smoking-Related Mortality Among American Indians/Alaska Natives. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2015;doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.05.002 [accessed 2015 Dec 3].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2015;64(44):1233-40 [accessed 2015 Dec 3].
  3. 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 2015 Dec 3].