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I’ve been asked a lot of questions since first appearing in the Tips from Former Smokers PSA. I’ve been asked about my symptoms, about my book, whether I still have a colostomy bag, and a number of other questions.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is: “How did you quit smoking?”
In this video I reveal the secret to how I finally quit smoking and using all tobacco products. It’s not a “secret” at all, really. But for those who want to know, here it is. It’s a little longer than most of my videos because I expanded on three important points that contributed to my quitting (There’s also a reference to something I learned from Tony Robbins). Bear with me, however. I think it’ll be worth it.
Last summer, while I was finishing my book, Semicolon, for publication, I was contacted by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA). I established a relationship with the CCA because I decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Semicolon to that organization. The CCA representative told me that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were looking for someone who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer while they were smoking to be in a public service announcement for the CDC’s 2015 Tips from Former Smokers Campaign. I thought, “What a fantastic way to give back and not only encourage smokers to quit but also to encourage people to get screened for colon cancer!”
I was given the contact info for the person to contact and I reached out to them. We exchanged a few e-mails. Then I filled out a questionnaire and sent it in. Then they sent an affidavit for my doctor to review and sign (regarding the link between smoking and my colorectal cancer diagnosis). That was followed by a Skype interview with the ad writers, a telephone interview with a CDC doctor, another interview with a attorney, and so on. I didn’t know for months if I would be chosen, but every step of the way I was believing for God to use me the way He wanted to.
The idea of directly impacting millions of people across the country to quit smoking and get screened for colon cancer was amazing to me. As anxious as I became at times, my wife encouraged me to leave it in God’s hands.
Finally, I got the call and was invited to go to the New York area to film the public service announcement and do the photo shoot for the print campaign. Initially it didn’t sink in. I became excited and then felt absolutely overwhelmed. It was happening. This was real. I thanked God and I remember praying, “Whatever happens, let my experience save lives.”
There is much more to tell about the experience — the filming, photo shoots, radio ad recording, etc. — but for now I’ll fast forward to this week. My family flew to Atlanta to participate in the CDC press conference this past Thursday, at which they announced the launch of the new, 2015 Tips from Former Smokers Campaign.
I’m proud to call all of them friends and I couldn’t be more proud of them for not only overcoming their own challenges, but also for quitting smoking and for participating in this campaign and sharing their stories so that other people may be inspired to quit smoking.
We’re all making a difference. According to CDC Director Dr. Frieder, each of us will be responsible — through our ads — for saving more lives in the 20 weeks that the ads will run than the average American doctor will save in their entire career. That’s a sobering thought, and an awesome reality.
Below are my and Julia’s 30 second ad, followed by my two vignettes. I invite you to watch them, to learn more about my story, which I detailed in my book, Semicolon.
CDC: Tips From Former Smokers – Julia and Mark’s Ad
CDC: Tips From Former Smokers – Mark’s Story
CDC: Tips From Former Smokers – Mark’s Military Service and Illness
More than anything I’ve ever written or created, I hope you will share these videos with someone you care about.
CDC’s graphic anti-smoking campaign will air March 30
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching its 2015 “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign with a series of powerful new ads featuring former smokers who suffer from smoking-related illnesses, including vision loss and colorectal cancer.
Ads also highlight the benefits of quitting for smokers’ loved ones, and the importance of quitting cigarettes completely, not just cutting down. Beginning March 30, these ads will run for 20 weeks on television, radio, billboards, online, and in theaters, magazines, and newspapers.
CDC’s successful Tips national tobacco education campaign has helped prompt millions of smokers to try to quit since it began in 2012. It has also proven to be a “best buy” in public health by costing just $393 to save a year of life.
“These former smokers are helping save tens of thousands of lives by sharing their powerful stories of how smoking has affected them,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “These new real-life ads will help smokers quit, adding years to their lives and life to their years.”
In 2014, Tips ads had an immediate and strong impact. When the ads were on the air, about 80 percent more people called the national quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, for free help. Since 2012, Tips ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls to the toll-free quitline number.
One of this year’s new ad participants is Marlene, 68, who started smoking in high school and began losing her vision to macular degeneration at age 56. Besides quitting smoking, the best chance for slowing her vision loss is a drug that must be injected through a needle into her eyes. To date, she has had more than 100 shots in each eye. “This will probably go on for the rest of my life,” said Marlene. “If I’d had a crystal ball many years ago, I would never have put that first cigarette in my mouth.”
The ads also feature:
- Mark, 47, an Air Force veteran who used cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. He quit in 2009 when he developed rectal cancer at age 42.
- Julia, 58, who smoked for more than 20 years before developing colon cancer at age 49, followed by surgery and months of chemotherapy. She needed an ostomy bag taped to a hole in her abdomen to collect waste.
- Tiffany, 35, whose mother died from lung cancer when Tiffany was 16. She quit smoking when her own daughter turned 16 so she could be around for important milestones in her daughter’s life. Tiffany’s ad will run as a public service announcement.
- Kristy, 35, who tried using e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes but ended up using both products instead of quitting. Kristy then suffered a collapsed lung, and was diagnosed with early COPD (lung disease) before she quit smoking completely.
Nationally, about 3 in 4 adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes. If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks. Smokers must quit smoking completely to fully protect their health — even a few cigarettes a day are dangerous. Kristy’s ads will be featured on the radio and in print.
“All the Tips ad participants are heroes,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., senior medical officer in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “By courageously sharing their painful personal stories, they’re inspiring millions of Americans to make the life-saving decision to quit smoking.”
Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. For every American who dies from a smoking-related disease, about 30 more suffer at least one serious illness from smoking.
The Tips ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or to visit www.cdc.gov/tips to view the personal stories from the campaign. The website includes detailed assistance developed by the National Cancer Institute to support smokers trying to quit.
Besides the human cost, smoking takes a devastating toll on our nation’s economy. It costs more than $300 billion a year—nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity. The Tips campaign serves as an important counter to the more than $8.3 billion spent annually by the tobacco industry to make cigarettes more attractive and more affordable, particularly to young people.
To find profiles of the former smokers, other campaign resources, and links to the ads, visit www.cdc.gov/tips.
For those who preordered signed and numbered limited editions, I am waiting for the first box of hardcovers to arrive, which should be any day now. THe paperbacks should go out within a week after the hardcovers. I truly appreciate your patience and support. I’ll get the books shipped out as soon as I can.
Interview In the Bag
This morning I got up, showered, grabbed a cup of coffee and settled into my comfy chair. Then my computer rang. It was the Skype call I was expecting, from the East Coast. I got on and met Bill Girourd and Josh Tetrault, the creative behind the upcoming CDC Tips anti-smoking campaign. We had a good chat, got to know each other a bit, and I answered a number of questions about my background and history. It was a little strange answering many of the questions again.
Back when I started my blog (in 2009) I convinced myself I would never have to travel down the road of telling my story a-gain. Well, not unless I was being interviewed for possible inclusion in a CDC anti-smoking public service announcement about the link between smoking and colon cancer, that is.
I truly enjoyed talking to them. Having been in publishing and doing some video production I felt somewhat connected to them. They’re good people and I know their goal is to craft a great PSA that reaches people and motivates them to quit smoking. If that means I’m selected to be in the PSA, that’s wonderful. If it means they select someone else to bring their message to people, that’s okay, too. It’s not about me. It’s about saving lives.
In case I’m not selected for the PSA, here’s my tip to smokers: Do whatever you have to do to quit, but quit. Colorectal cancer is a pain in the ass. Life is much more enjoyable when you have all of your parts and they work the way they’re supposed to. Having an ostomy, neuropathy, erectile dysfunction, and any number of other possible circumstances as a result of colorectal cancer, which is linked to smoking… no bueno. Everyone loves a quitter.
Honor Roll Get Mention on CCA Page
In other exciting news, the Colon Cancer Alliance posted a link to the Honor Roll on the CCA Facebook page yesterday. The response has been overwhelming! So many people commenting, Liking and Sharing, and submitting names to be added to the Honor Roll.
What began as a trickle has become a flood of names coming in for the book! I am so thankful for the opportunity to honor those who’ve had colon cancer and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support and the submissions that keep coming in!
What began as an idea to honor other normal people like me has really grown! That one post on the CCA page has been shared more than 72 times in less than 24 hours!
This weekend is the deadline for submissions for the print editions of the book. If you want to honor someone who’s had colon cancer by printing their name on the Honor Roll in the book, fill out the submission form before this Sunday, June 22nd, at Midnight PST!
On the Road Again
My sister-in-law, Tracey, flew out from Missouri to visit for the weekend. This afternoon we’re all heading down to the East Bay to attend a private party at our mentor’s home and then on to San Jose for our company’s International Training Event. We’ll be with 25,000 other like-minded people getting first-class training. There’s going to be incredible energy there and I know lives will be changed.
Perhaps the highlight of the event will be the opportunity to hear directly from internationally-renowned leadership expert, John C. Maxwell! Mr. Maxwell is the author of more than 50 books on Leadership, including The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the book I’m currently reading, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.
It’s going to be an amazing weekend. My wish for you is that you have an amazing weekend, too.
I’ll see you all when I get back to posting next week!