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Tips Campaign Matte Article for General Public

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CDC's Tips From Former Smokers Campaign Airing a New Round of Hard-Hitting Commercials

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 been harmed by smoking. The new ads began airing across the United States in January 2016. They underscore the immediate and long-term damage smoking can do to the body.

CDC launched the first Tips campaign in 2012 to lower smoking rates and save lives. A CDC study published in The Lancet shows that 1.64 million smokers tried to quit as a result of the 2012 campaign. The study estimated that about 100,000 of those smokers will stay quit for good.1

The 2016 ads raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dual use (current use of both cigarettes and electronic cigarettes [e-cigarettes]), cancer, depression and anxiety, and smokers’ risks for heart disease. The ad participants come from all walks of life and include the following:

  • Becky, age 54, started smoking as a teenager in 1976 when she was a high school exchange student in Germany, because some of her host family and friends were smokers. “I started smoking to fit in,” she said. After attending college in Ohio, Becky attended law school to pursue her dream of working as a public defender. At age 45, Becky was diagnosed with COPD—a serious lung disease that gradually makes it harder and harder to breathe. Becky continued to smoke after her diagnosis and was hospitalized in 2012 when she was unable to catch her breath one day while leaving work. She tried not to panic but knew she needed immediate medical help. Becky remembers waking up in the intensive care unit and facing the fight of her life. Today, Becky needs continuous oxygen to help her breathe, but she’s grateful that she quit and can now help educate others about the dangers of smoking.

“Whenever I had a craving, I said to myself, ‘I choose not to smoke today,’” Becky said.

  • Brian, a 60-year-old military veteran, grew up in Chicago and started smoking cigarettes at age 8 because he thought it was cool. Brian’s parents smoked, and he recalls that everyone around him smoked. “Smoking had become ingrained in my mind,” he said. Although Brian enjoyed his job, he had many responsibilities. As a result, he struggled with job stress and often used smoking to cope. One day, while stationed in England, Brian had severe chest pains while walking at work. “I was out of breath and sweating, and the pain got worse,” he said. Suddenly, he collapsed. Brian was having a heart attack at age 35. Over the years, Brian’s heart problems worsened. He had several surgeries, including one in which a defibrillator—a device that helps regulate abnormal heartbeats—was put in his chest. Eventually, Brian’s heart became so damaged that he needed a heart transplant. It wasn’t until he quit smoking that Brian was eligible to receive a donated heart. Brian is extremely grateful for his new heart and glad that he quit smoking for good. 

“Every day is a gift to spend time with my wife and grandkids,” he said.

  • Kristy, a 33-year-old mother of three, was a heavy smoker who developed smoker’s cough and shortness of breath. She tried using e-cigarettes as a way to cut back on cigarette smoking, but she continued to smoke regular cigarettes. Her cough didn't get better, and eventually, Kristy stopped using e-cigarettes and went back to smoking only cigarettes. Soon after, her lung collapsed.  

"I could never get completely off regular cigarettes until I wound up in the hospital," she said. Today, Kristy loves being a nonsmoker. "I can actually breathe," she said.  "I can play with my kids. When I smoked, I had no energy. It just affected my whole life!"

  • Rebecca, age 57, started smoking cigarettes at age 16. All of her family members smoked, and once she started smoking, she was hooked. Rebecca kept smoking into adulthood and tried to stop but soon discovered she had trouble quitting. At age 33, Rebecca was diagnosed with depression. She smoked frequently when she felt depressed because she thought smoking might help her cope with her feelings. Rebecca felt ashamed when she smoked, so when she tried to quit and couldn’t, she felt even more depressed. “That was just a vicious, vicious cycle,” she said. To break the cycle, Rebecca knew she had to get care for her depression and quit smoking for good. Rebecca also lost some teeth as a result of gum disease, which can be caused by smoking. This further strengthened her resolve to lead a healthy lifestyle. Rebecca finally quit smoking, and she feels better—both mentally and physically. Rebecca is proud of her accomplishment. 

“It’s about taking control and knowing where you want to be in your life.”

  • Rico, age 48, started smoking at age 14. He remembers lighting his father’s cigarettes as a young boy and watching him smoke constantly. Rico continued smoking into adulthood, and although his doctors told him to quit, he admits it was difficult. “I just couldn’t quit,” he said. At age 45, Rico’s doctor told him he had cancer. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. Rico realized he had to take immediate action and quit smoking for good. Rico stopped smoking because he wanted to be healthy and watch his then-teenaged children grow up. He was treated for his cancer and has been a survivor since 2011. Rico recalls how he first struggled to quit smoking but feels proud that he took control of his health and quit. 

“I quit so that I’d be more than a memory to my wife and children,” he said. Rico enjoys sharing his story with others and believes that it’s never too late to quit smoking and live a healthy lifestyle.

  • Smoking causes severe health problems, and living with these health problems can be very difficult for smokers and for their families. Unfortunately, even though smoking rates have declined over the years—from 20.9% in 2005 to 16.8% in 2014,2—tobacco use still results in far too many deaths, disabilities, and smoking-related illnesses in the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking and breathing secondhand smoke cause more than 480,000 deaths a year in the United States and are among the main causes of early disability.3
  • Americans pay a high price in illnesses and deaths due to tobacco use. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.3 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.

"The message of the Tips campaign is simple: Quit smoking now. Better yet—don't start," said Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Studies show that the sooner you quit, the better."

For more information about the Tips campaign and resources for quitting smoking, visit CDC.gov/tips. For help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

References

  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;382(9909):2003–11 [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].
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