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Tips Campaign Matte Article for American Indian/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 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. His doctor gave him 5 years to live, and that was 5 years ago, 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 says. Breathing in other people's smoke on a daily basis made his health so bad that he felt he had to leave that job.

After getting sick, dancing even a few steps wore him out. Nathan's lung damage led to his death when he was just 54.

If you are an American Indian or Alaska Native, you likely know someone like Nathan or Michael, who are featured in CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign. It could be a member of your family with smoker’s cough or who is struggling to breathe or a friend with lung cancer. Cigarette smoking is more common among American Indians and Alaska Natives than most other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Smoking cigarettes increases the chances of losing members of your tribe to smoking-related illnesses and losing 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 in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations remains high. In 2012, 21.8% of AI/AN adults in the United States smoked cigarettes, compared with 18.1% of U.S. adults overall. The prevalence of smoking was higher in AI/AN men (25.5%) than in AI/AN women (18.7%).1

This is disturbing, because since the publication of the first Surgeon General’s report 50 years ago, we have learned 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. 2

The decline in smoking prevalence has leveled off in recent years. But as Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Office of Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “It has been challenging to make progress in getting people to quit smoking in the last several years."

That’s why in 2012, CDC launched the Tips From Former Smokers campaign. The Tips campaign focused 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 American Indians and Alaska Natives 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 Nathan and Michael hoped that by sharing their stories they could help other American Indian and Alaska Native smokers to quit. Young people were a special passion for Nathan. He urged teens not to start smoking and if they did, to quit. He encouraged everyone to protect children from secondhand smoke.

Michael says in his radio ad, “My tip for you is to quit smoking now and live your life as a person, not a walking ghost.”

For more information about the Tips campaign and resources for quitting smoking, visit For free help to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2014;63(02):29–34 [accessed 2014 Apr 24].
  2. 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 Apr 24].