We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Terrie Hall – a true American hero. Terrie appeared in ads run by CDC for the Tips From Former Smokers media campaign, which encouraged several million smokers to try to quit. Terrie died on September 16th from the effects of the cancer caused by the cigarette smoking she began in high school. Treating her cancer required multiple surgeries over the years, including the loss of her voice box, leaving a hole in her throat. This summer the cancer spread to her brain, and despite radiation and surgery, the cancer spread further.
Terrie wanted to save people from having to go through the sickness and surgeries she endured. She decided to let smokers and young people see her disfigurement and know what caused it, so that they would stop smoking – or better still, never start. She spoke at schools and before other small groups. But the Tips from Former Smokers campaign gave Terrie her biggest platform. More than a hundred million Americans saw her ads on television, the Internet, in magazines, on billboards and at bus stops — and many of them decided to try to quit smoking. Strangers came up to her in drugstores and hugged her to thank her for inspiring them to quit. By her willingness to show and tell people what cigarette smoking had done to her, Terrie saved thousands of American lives.
I had the occasion to meet Terrie recently as she was getting a medal of commendation from the Surgeon General for her leadership in smoking cessation. Of every ad CDC has ever run, Terrie’s was the most compelling story, and we all knew how many people she affected with her famous lines “If you’re going to smoke, take a video of yourself so your grandchildren can see you before you sound like this.” Terrie made it her mission to show the reality of smoking’s impact, and she saved many lives in doing so. Deep bow to you our friend, you will not be forgotten, farewell & godspeed.
Yesterday was the release of the 31st tobacco-related Surgeon General Report. The surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, held a call to answer questions about the whopping 920 page document. The report focuses on the pervasive issue of smoking among youth and young adults, ages 18-25 (but let’s be honest- younger too). The report covers the epidemiology, causes, and health effects of tobacco use in this population, as well as interventions that can be used to prevent it.
On the call, Dr. Benjamin talked about prevention being the key to stopping the “smoking epidemic”- 99% of smokers begin before age 25, so if we can get youth to remain smoke free until age 26, only 1% will start to smoke.
People on the call asked some interesting questions, which sparked some good conversations. Some things discussed included tobacco-control funding being cut on local levels because of current economic strains, smokeless tobacco products (which are seen to be “less bad”, but still contain NICOTINE. Additionally, use of smokeless products and cigarettes are almost always “dual use”), the importance of mass media interventions (Aiming interventions at youth “trend setters” who influence youth culture – hipsters, counter-culture and bar-scene crowds), and how smoke free policies lead to smoke free norms, which in turn help with the overall effort of tobacco control.
I think that this report is especially exciting and pertinent to the work that we are trying to do here at the Network. There is not much data out there about smoking and LGBT youth, but you better believe the rates are even higher than the already ridiculously high numbers of non-LGBT youth smokers. And we know that things like depression, bullying, not feeling supported, being stressed, not fitting in, etc., affect our LGBT youth AND are direct contributors to smoking.
In this moment where there is a lot of national focus on youth, around issues such as tobacco and bullying, I think it’s high time we put our heads together and made some serious connections between the problems that are in front of us, and the reasons that these problems exist- whether it is systemic homophobia, omnipotent corporations, whatever….There is amazing work that is being done, with people full of experience and knowledge. I think this is a perfect time for EVERYONE to get on board and who knows? Maybe we’re on the way to making a HUGE difference…
Hope everyone’s weekend is lovely!
Oh! And here are some useful links: