Quit for You, Quit for Your Loved Ones
While most Americans understand that smoking cigarettes causes serious health effects, those who start smoking as youth or young adults may not realize smoking-related disease can happen relatively early in life. Illness may also cause them to miss important life milestones and can deeply affect the daily lives of their family members and friends.
The new stories featured in this year’s Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign offer two perspectives: people living with serious illnesses caused by smoking, and those caring for loved ones with smoking-related disease. All of the people featured in this year’s Tips campaign share their very personal accounts of courage and perseverance in new, hard-hitting ads that will run nationwide beginning on March 23rd. Each ad encourages people who smoke to quit for good, and to take advantage of free help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569).
Asaad M. was 19 years old when his mother, Leah, found out she had colorectal cancer caused by smoking. Leah had smoked cigarettes since she was 17 years old.
Before his mom’s diagnosis, Asaad had an internship in the fashion industry, where he planned to pursue a career. But when it came to his decision to drop out and care for Leah during her cancer treatment and recovery, he said it was an easy choice.
“I was just like, ‘Okay, we’ll fight this together. That’s that,’” he said.
Leah quit smoking after her cancer diagnosis. She now understands the impact of her smoking. “It was ignorant for me to think I wasn’t hurting anyone,” she said. “I never considered who would take care of me if I became ill.”
Tonya M. was only 38 when her doctor told her she had heart failure due to her smoking. She had started smoking as a teen, and by the time she was diagnosed, she was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
In 2013, Tonya had a mechanical pump inserted inside her chest to help her damaged heart move blood through her body. The pump uses batteries, so Tonya needs to make sure that she always has battery power available or her pump will not work. Her husband and children learned how to change the dressings and batteries and respond to different alarms from the device.
“It went from me being their caregiver, to my husband and kids being mine,” Tonya said. “Nobody wants that for their kids.”
Geri M., now 58, loved her job as a mail carrier. In addition to time spent with family, she enjoyed gardening, cooking, and dancing. However, she also smoked menthol cigarettes—about a pack a day.
At age 44, Geri learned from her doctor that she had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from smoking. COPD is a condition that makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death. She continued smoking after her diagnosis, although she did try a few times to quit. About her smoking, Geri said, “I didn’t really take it seriously, and I should have.”
By the time she quit at age 54, in 2015, her COPD had taken away her ability to do many things she used to love, and she had to give up her job. She regrets starting to smoke and wishes she had quit sooner.
Michael F. and his wife, Edna, had many adventures planned—even after he was diagnosed at age 47 with COPD because of his smoking. They bought a boat and a camping trailer they took sightseeing when Michael got time away from his stressful, high-powered job.
Still, Michael kept smoking until his left lung collapsed when he was 51. He had to have surgery and finally quit smoking. His COPD gradually got worse, and Michael was forced to quit his job. Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with his travel plans, either, he and Edna sold the boat and the trailer.
To people who may not feel ready to quit, Michael advises, “Think about all you’ll have to give up and ask yourself if it’s really worth it. I can tell you: it isn’t.”
“There wasn’t a lot of information in those days about how dangerous cigarettes were,” she said.
Beginning with Brian’s heart attack at age 35, Denise has cared for him through several health challenges due to his smoking: COPD, heart bypass surgery, a heart transplant, lung cancer, and the removal of part of his lung.
Rebecca C., who smoked for 26 years before quitting, has Buerger’s disease, a condition almost exclusively caused by smoking. Like COPD, Buerger’s disease doesn’t go away, but quitting smoking can help slow it down. Rebecca had swelling and blockage in the blood vessels of her right foot, which led to the amputation of all five of the toes on that foot. After the surgery, she had to re-learn how to balance while walking, especially on stairs.
Rebecca knows she needs to stay smokefree: “I won’t go back to smoking again. I can’t; I don’t want to lose any more.”
Quitting now could mean that you don’t have to give up the things that people like Rebecca, Geri, Michael, and Tonya once took for granted.
Resources to Help You Quit
People who stop smoking can reduce their risk for disease and early death. The health benefits are greater for those who quit smoking at a younger age, but quitting at any point will benefit your health. The following resources can help you quit smoking:
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- 1-800-QUIT-NOWexternal icon
- 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (Spanish)external icon
- Asian Smokers’ Quitlineexternal icon
- 1-800-838-8917 (Cantonese & Mandarin)
- 1-800-556-5564 (Korean)
- 1-800-778-8440 (Vietnamese)