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How I Quit Smoking

JMFS How I Quit SmokingI’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.

To watch the video, click here. The link will take you to my personal blog site, JoinMeForSuccess.com, where you can view this and other videos I’ve recorded.

Why I joined the Tips from Former Smokers campaign

tipsLast 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.

A Tip from a Former Smoker: When you have an ostomy bag, use extra tape to cut down on leaks.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.

2015 Tips participantsLast September I met Julia,  fabulous lady, and her son. Over this past week I met Marlene and Kristy and their respective husbands. They are all fabulous people.

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.

Take care.



Powerful new “Tips From Former Smokers” ads focus on living with vision loss and colorectal cancer

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.


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