Real Stories by Disease/Condition
The individuals below are participating in the Tips From Former Smokers® Campaign. All of them have been affected by cigarette smoke. Some are former smokers and some have never smoked. Almost all of them are living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities. These diseases and disabilities changed the quality of their lives — some dramatically — including how they eat, dress and do daily tasks. Some had to give up activities they once loved to do. They speak from experience and agreed to share their stories with you, to send a single, powerful message: Quit smoking now. Or better yet — don’t ever start.
Meet Ellie. Ellie, age 57, lives in Florida and never smoked. At 35, she started having asthma attacks triggered from breathing secondhand smoke at work. The severe attacks forced her to leave a job she loved.
Meet Jamason. Jamason, age 18, lives in Kentucky. He was an infant when he was diagnosed with asthma. When people smoke around him, the secondhand smoke can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks.
Meet Jessica. Jessica, age 28, lives in New York and has never smoked. Her son, Aden, was diagnosed with asthma at age 3, and exposure to secondhand smoke has triggered asthma attacks.
Meet Nathan. Nathan lived in Idaho. A member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, he was exposed to secondhand smoke at work that caused permanent lung damage and triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job. His illness led to his death on October 17, 2013. He was 54.
Meet Brandon. Brandon, age 31, lives in North Dakota and began smoking at age 15. At 18, he was diagnosed with Buerger's disease, which resulted in the amputation of both his legs and several fingertips.
Meet Marie. Marie, age 62, lives in New York and began smoking in high school. Diagnosed with Buerger's disease in her forties, Marie has undergone amputations of part of her right foot, her left leg, and several fingertips.
Meet Annette. Annette, age 57, lives in New York and began smoking in her teens. At age 52, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, which required removal of one of her lungs. She was later diagnosed with oral cancer.
Meet Christine. Christine, age 49, lives in Pennsylvania and began smoking at age 16. At age 44, she was diagnosed with oral cancer, which eventually required doctors to remove half of her jaw.
Meet Julia. Julia, age 58, lives in Mississippi and started smoking in her early twenties. At age 49, she developed colon cancer. She’s had surgery and chemotherapy and has lived with an ostomy bag taped to a hole in her abdomen.
Meet Mark. Mark, age 47, lives in California and started smoking as a teenager. He continued smoking during military service in the Persian Gulf and in civilian life until he developed rectal cancer at age 42.
Meet Rose. Rose lived in Texas and began smoking at age 13. She developed lung cancer that later spread to her brain. After many, many treatments, Rose died in January 2015. She was 60.
Meet Shane. Shane lived in Wisconsin and began smoking at age 18. At age 34, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and his larynx and upper esophagus were removed. Shane died on August 4, 2016 from smoking-related cancer.
Meet Sharon. Sharon, age 52, lives in Illinois and began smoking at age 13. In 1997, at age 37, she was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer.
Meet Shawn. Shawn, age 50, lives in Washington State and began smoking at age 14. At 46, he was diagnosed with throat cancer that required 38 radiation treatments and the removal of his larynx.
Meet Terrie. Terrie lived in North Carolina and began smoking in high school. At 40, she was diagnosed with oral and throat cancers and had her larynx removed. She died of a smoking-related cancer on September 16, 2013. She was 53.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Meet Becky. Becky, age 54, lives in Ohio and started smoking as a teenager. She continued to smoke until she quit for good at age 52.
Meet Michael. Michael, age 57, lives in Alaska and began smoking at age 9. At 44, he was diagnosed with COPD — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — which makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death.
Meet Bill. Bill lived in Michigan and had diabetes. At 15, he started smoking cigarettes. At 39, he quit smoking after his leg was amputated due to poor circulation—made worse from smoking. Bill died from heart disease in August 2014. He was 42.
Dual Use of Tobacco Products
Meet Kristy Kristy, age 35, lives in Tennessee. She had a deep smoker’s cough and tried using e-cigarettes as a way to cut back on cigarette smoking but continued to smoke regular cigarettes. Eventually, she stopped using e-cigarettes and went back to smoking only cigarettes and later, her lung collapsed.
Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Meet Brett. Brett, age 49, lives in New Mexico. He had gum disease by his mid-30s but didn't quit smoking until after most of his teeth had to be removed.
Meet Felicita. Felicita, age 54, lives in Florida and began smoking at age 12. She didn't know smoking could harm her gums and teeth. She lost all her teeth by age 50.
Heart Disease / Stroke
Meet Brian. Brian, age 60, lives in Texas. An Air Force veteran, Brian had his first heart attack at age 35 while on assignment in England. He quit smoking in 2009 and received a heart transplant in July 2012.
Meet Mariano. Mariano, 55, lives in Illinois. He started smoking at 15. In 2004, he had open heart surgery and barely escaped having a heart attack. He quit smoking — grateful for a second chance at life.
Meet Roosevelt. Roosevelt, age 51, lives in Virginia and began smoking in his teens. At age 45, he had a heart attack. Doctors later placed stents in his heart and performed six bypasses.
Meet Suzy. Suzy, age 62, lives in New York and began smoking at age 15. At age 57, Suzy suffered a stroke that caused her to have partial paralysis and problems with her speech and eyes.
Meet Brian. Brian, age 45, lives in California and has HIV. At 14, he started smoking. At 43, smoking, combined with HIV, caused him to have a stroke. He quit that day and hopes to regain full use of his right hand.
Mental Health Conditions
Meet Beatrice. Beatrice, age 40, lives in New York and began smoking regularly at age 13. A mother of two, she quit smoking in 2010 because she wanted to be around for her family.
Meet James. James, age 48, lives in New York and began smoking at age 14. He quit smoking in 2010 to reduce his risk for health problems and now bikes 10 miles every day.
Meet Rico. Rico, age 48, lives in California. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 45. Rico was determined to quit smoking and be smokefree for life. Now that he’s quit and a cancer survivor, he feels blessed to spend time with his family.
Meet Tiffany. Tiffany, age 35, lives in Louisiana. She started smoking at 19, even though her mother, a smoker, died of lung cancer. Tiffany quit smoking — wanting to be around for her own teenage daughter.
Meet Wilma. Wilma, age 49, lives in Texas and began smoking in her early teens. She quit smoking in 2007 to reduce her risk for health problems.
Vision Loss and Blindness
- Page last reviewed: February 21, 2017
- Page last updated: August 3, 2017
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