Nathan M.’s Story

Meet Nathan
Meet Nathan M.

Nathan, a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, never smoked cigarettes. For 11 years, he worked at a casino that allowed smoking. Secondhand smoke contains dangerous chemicals. The exposure to secondhand smoke caused him to develop allergies and serious infections that triggered asthma attacks, eventually causing 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 had to leave that job.

Nathan used to be active and athletic. He served in the Marines. He loved to participate in tribal dances. After getting sick, dancing just a few steps wore him out. Nathan hoped that sharing his story would help others understand how dangerous exposure to secondhand smoke really is. Nathan died at age 54 from lung damage caused by secondhand smoke exposure.

Nathan M.’s Videos

Nathan M.: “I never smoked a day in my life!”
Nathan was Lakota, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, and never smoked. However, he worked in a facility where smoking was allowed, and experienced health problems as a result. In this video from CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® campaign, Nathan describes his health problems—including asthma—triggered by exposure to secondhand smoke. He had to give up many activities he loved, including tribal dancing, because of damage to his lungs. That damage led to his early death at age 54.
Nathan M.’s Tip Ad
Nathan was surrounded by secondhand smoke every day at work. This caused permanent lung damage and triggered severe asthma attacks. Nathan himself never smoked. In this TV commercial from CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® campaign, Nathan tells viewers that because of his health problems, he could no longer work at the same job or participate in some of his favorite activities. Nathan died at age 54 of illnesses caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
Nathan M.: Sidelined by Other People’s Smoke
Nathan worked in a smoky casino for 11 years. It robbed him of his health and a favorite pastime—tribal dancing. Although Nathan never smoked, secondhand smoke damaged his lungs. In this video, shot before his death, Nathan talks about how he copes. He died at 54 of illnesses caused by secondhand smoke exposure.

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Nathan M.’s Biography

Nathan, a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, had permanent lung damage. He never smoked cigarettes, but for 11 years he worked at a casino that allowed smoking. After breathing people’s cigarette smoke daily, Nathan began to have frequent asthma attacks triggered by the secondhand smoke. “You could see the smoke hovering inside the casino,” he recalled.


As he worked at the casino, Nathan noticed more changes to his health. Along with asthma attacks, he started having frequent problems with eye irritation, headaches, allergies, ear and sinus infections, and bronchitis. Over the years, the symptoms got worse. “A common cold escalated into pneumonia, sending me to the emergency room,” he said. “During one of the visits, a doctor was looking at x-rays of my lungs and commented that I had the lungs of a heavy smoker. I told him, ‘I never smoked a day in my life!’”

In 2009, doctors determined that Nathan’s airways were seriously damaged by repeated infections from exposure to secondhand smoke, which led to scarring and widening of his airways called bronchiectasis. Lung damage from bronchiectasis is permanent. His lung problems were so serious that Nathan finally had to leave his job to avoid the smoke. Just walking a short distance, he would get out of breath and had to use oxygen daily.

Nathan and his wife enjoyed a long marriage with five adult children and three grandchildren. Nathan prided himself on being a very active person. As a young man, he served in the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines reconnaissance division, where he received sniper training. He also raced motorcycles and received sponsorship from a major motorcycle company.

Nathan participated in tribal dance competitions and loved to referee at high school basketball games, which he did for 14 years. “I can’t do any of those things anymore,” he said.

Nathan decided it was important to share his story, with the hope that others would not suffer as he did. He spoke at schools, Pow-Wows, and conferences as much as his health allowed. He wanted to make everyone aware of the dangers of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

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.

“Some people tell me they smoke, and I ask them if they have grandchildren. ‘If you smoke, you may be taking that smoke home to the grandchildren and their small lungs,’ I tell them. I never smoked; look what happened to me. I want to make people aware of the damage that exposure to secondhand smoke can do to you.”

The secondhand smoke Nathan was exposed to permanently damaged his lungs and led to his early death. He died in 2013 at age 54.

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