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Real Stories About Smoking's Harm Hit Home

Tips from Former SmokersTake a moment from your daily routine to see the real consequences smoking has on real people. These TV ads can save your life.

Dramatic, new TV ads that show the harms of smoking air across the country this year, beginning February 3, with CDC's 2014 Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign. If you smoke, the real people who tell their stories can inspire you to quit for good. More than 100,000 people are now smokefree, thanks to earlier Tips ads.

The ads show the suffering caused by cigarettes: asthma, cancer, heart attack, and amputations. Many people call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit an online quit smoking guide within minutes or hours after seeing an ad. These resources offer free advice and support for quitting.

Terrie talks about her own teen years and the heartache she later felt when she saw teenagers smoking.

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Terrie's Story

Two new TV ads share messages from Terrie, a cancer survivor who appeared in previous Tips ads. Many people remember her unique, breathy voice and how she got dressed in the morning with false teeth, a wig, and a scarf to cover the hole in her neck.

Terrie started smoking in high school; by age 25, she had a sore throat that never seemed to go away. When she was 40, doctors found cancer and removed her voice box.

In time, Terrie could no longer smell cake baking in the oven or coffee brewing. She couldn't sing lullabies to her grandchild, and her cancer returned again and again. But she used her unique voice to warn others about smoking. She wanted to prevent people from suffering as she and her family had. Her new—and final—ads were filmed shortly before she died in September 2013 at age 53. In these compelling ads, Terrie urges people to quit smoking—once and for all.

New Cancer Dangers From Smoking Revealed

The list of cancers that you can get from smoking continues to get longer—and the risk for lung cancer today is much greater than it was 50 years ago. Back then, the first word that many smokers heard about cancer came from the first Surgeon General's Report on smoking and health (Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service), which was released on January 11, 1964.

This year's 50th anniversary report (The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General) reveals that:

  • Smoking causes colon, rectal, and liver cancer. These add to more than a dozen cancers already known to be caused by smoking, including a type of blood cancer (leukemia).
  • Smokers are more likely to get lung cancer today than in 1964, even though they don't smoke as many cigarettes. One possible reason is that filters and vent holes in today's cigarettes may lead smokers to inhale more deeply. This may pull dangerous chemical farther into your lungs.
  • Smoking keeps cancer treatments from working as well as they should for those who continue smoking.

Roosevelt talks about how his life has changed since his heart attack at age 45.

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Smoking Causes Heart Attacks: Roosevelt's Story

Smoking can damage your heart, which Tips participant Roosevelt learned in a terrifying way. The smoke can make blood vessels inside the body thicken and narrow—and then make clots form that may block blood flow to the heart. The result can be a sudden heart attack.

Roosevelt first tried cigarettes in his teens and then continued to smoke for nearly 30 years. When he was 45, a heart attack landed him in the hospital for a month. Doctors used stents and bypass surgery to repair the damage to his heart caused by smoking. He had to give up his career as a commercial plumber because his heart was no longer strong enough. "It's a drastic change. It changes your whole mindset of how you feel about yourself," he said.

Secondhand Smoke Kills: Nathan's Story

Nathan's TV ad shines a light on the harms of secondhand smoke. Nathan was a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe. He never smoked cigarettes, but he was surrounded by secondhand smoke every day at work for 11 years. "The casino was filled with smoke from so many people smoking," he said.

Exposure to secondhand smoke caused him to develop allergies and serious infections that triggered asthma attacks. These eventually caused lung damage that never went away, called bronchiectasis.

Nathan used to be active and athletic. He served in the Marines. He took part in tribal dances. After getting sick, dancing just a few steps wore him out. He hoped that sharing his story would help others understand how dangerous exposure to secondhand smoke really is. Nathan's lung damage led to his untimely death in October 2013 at age 54.

Changed Lives

Other people featured in the Tips ads live with smoking-related illnesses that affect them nearly every day.

  • Bill, who has diabetes, had kidney failure, went blind in one eye, and had one leg amputated.
  • Brandon lost both legs below the knees and parts of his fingers to Buerger's disease.
  • Marie lost parts of her fingers, lower legs, and feet to Buerger's disease.
  • Jessica's son, Aden, has asthma attacks that are triggered by exposure to secondhand smoke.

All of the people featured in the Tips ad campaigns hope their stories will help other smokers quit.

Very simply, as one Tips participant says, "It's my desire that… you won't come to this place—that you will stop [smoking], one way or another."