On July 7, the Tips From Former Smokers campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin again across the country. The campaign profiles real people — not actors — who live with serious long-term health effects from smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The new campaign features some gut-wrenching personal stories that are painful to watch. I urge you not to turn the dial when you see or hear these messages, but instead to put yourself in the shoes of these brave individuals. Close your eyes and imagine learning you have gum disease that requires most of your teeth to be pulled, including 16 in one sitting, like Brett. Imagine finding out your cough and laryngitis are actually lung cancer, like Shawn. Try to envision that you are pregnant, like Amanda, and your baby is born two months early at only three pounds, forcing her to spend her first weeks of life in an incubator.
These are the true and devastating stories of tobacco use.
This campaign is saving lives and money by giving people the facts about smoking — and we are listening. An estimated 1.64 million Americans tried to quit smoking as a result of the 2012 Tips campaign and at least 100,000 are expected to quit smoking for good. When the ads ran last fall, calls to the Indiana Tobacco Quitline nearly doubled.
Here in Indiana, fewer Hoosiers are smoking than ever before. Our smoking rate has dropped from 25.6 percent in 2011 to 21.9 percent in 2013. That’s a huge gain, but we have a long way to go. Smoking kills approximately 9,700 Hoosiers and 480,000 Americans each year. For every smoking-related death, at least 30 Americans live with smoking-related illnesses.
We all know someone who smokes — a neighbor, a friend, ourselves. Free help to quit is available to all Hoosiers by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669). Let’s help those we love gain their independence from tobacco and the harsh realities it causes.
Indiana State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D., is a former president and CEO of Community Hospital Anderson.