Rebecca started smoking at age 16. When she was 33, she was diagnosed with depression.
She says she turned to cigarettes to help her cope. When she tried to quit and couldn’t, she felt even more depressed and started smoking again.
“That was just a vicious, vicious cycle,” says Rebecca, who volunteered to be part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s smoking education campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers.”
Rebecca, pictured above, is a volunteer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s smoking education campaign, called “Tips from Former Smokers.” Rebecca and other volunteers share their personal stories of the negative effects of smoking.
It is the first-ever paid national tobacco education campaign that profiles real people who are living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke.
The drive offers compelling stories through video interviews of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities and the toll they can take.
This year, the CDC is teaming up with NASW to assist social workers in helping their clients address the mental health link to tobacco use, said Crystal Bruce, communications specialist at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
“When we find a story to highlight, we look for partnership opportunities who can help us spread the word,” Bruce explained of Rebecca’s story profiled in the campaign. Similarly in the past, the effort has engaged doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and other health care providers so they can encourage their smoking clients to quit for good.
The CDC says studies show that people with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke than those who don’t have mental health issues, and that smoking can exacerbate symptoms and lead to devastating illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.
“We have a very robust website that features not only back stories of our participants, but also resources for (health) providers in a section called Partners and Providers,” Bruce explained.
Primary care and mental health care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based smoking cessation treatments, the CDC says. The campaign urges professionals in these fields to prioritize asking clients about their tobacco use and providing support and education about cessation to those who smoke.
NASW has promoted the CDC campaign to its members and fanbase through its social media channels on Facebook and Twitter, and more dissemination efforts are on the horizon.
Bruce said the campaign has made a difference in helping smokers quit.
A 2012 study cites that 1.6 million smokers made a quit attempt attributed to the CDC campaign that year. Of that number, the CDC is confident that 100,000 people quit tobacco for good, Bruce said.
“We know stories like Rebecca’s will impact and improve people’s lives,” she said.
Carrie Dorn, a senior practice associate at NASW, said having the association team up with the CDC effort is important since social workers are the majority of mental health providers in the nation. Addressing tobacco dependence can be a part of the recovery process and help promote wellness.
“Social workers are in a position to help people in this way because they work in a variety of settings,” Dorn explained. “This effort can have tangible health outcomes of the clients we serve.”
The CDC Tips from Former Smokers: CDC.gov/tips; 1-800-QUIT-NOW (CDC.gov/consejos or 1-855-DEJELO-YA). Text QUIT to 47848 for free 24/7 quit help.