Woman who made CDC anti-smok­ing ad talks about her ex­pe­ri­ence

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN 360 LIFE - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com

Amanda Bren­den might look fa­mil­iar. Of­ten, peo­ple can’t quite re­mem­ber where they have seen her. Bren­den has been on your TV and in mag­a­zines. She’s not your typ­i­cal celebrity. She’s a mom of three chil­dren from Eau Claire, Wis., who is try­ing to get preg­nant women to un­der­stand the dan­ger of smok­ing while preg­nant.

Bren­den is part of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion’s ad cam­paign “Tips from For­mer Smok­ers.” In her ad, she tells you that her baby was born two months early and weighed 3 pounds. Her tip: When you visit your baby in an in­cu­ba­tor in the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit, “Speak into the open­ing so your baby can hear you bet­ter.”

Bren­den, 33, was in Austin this week to speak at the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of Tobacco or Health. It’s a con­fer­ence of state, lo­cal and fed­eral of­fi­cials work­ing on re­duc­ing the use of tobacco.

Cig­a­rette smok­ing is the lead­ing cause of pre­ventable dis­ease and death in the United States, ac­count­ing for more than 480,000 deaths ev­ery year, or 1 of ev­ery 5 deaths, the CDC says.

In 2015, about 15 of ev­ery 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (15.1 per­cent) cur­rently smoked cig­a­rettes or about 36.5 mil­lion adults. More than 16 mil­lion Amer­i­cans live with a smok­ing-re­lated dis­ease.

Pre­ven­tion is work­ing. Smok­ing has de­clined from nearly 21 of ev­ery 100 adults (20.9 per­cent) in 2005.

At the con­fer­ence, Bren­den talked about mak­ing the CDC ad, her work as a smok­ing ces­sa­tion coun­selor for Wis­con­sin Womens Health Foun­da­tion, and what health care providers can do to help their pa­tients stop smok­ing.

Bren­den started smok­ing in fifth grade. She grew up in a house where her par­ents smoked, and ev­ery­one around them smoked. She was a kid who hated the smell of cig­a­rette smoke and hated that her par­ents smoked, and yet, when a friend got a cig­a­rette from an older sib­ling, she tried it.

“It was an adult thing to do,” she says

By mid­dle school, she was smok­ing daily. Friends would pool money and ask other peo­ple to buy cig­a­rettes for them, or they would use the cig­a­rette vend­ing ma­chines (which are no longer le­gal), or she and her friends would take their par­ents’ cig­a­rettes. “We all had easy ac­cess to cig­a­rettes,” Bren­den says.

Her par­ents def­i­nitely didn’t want her smok­ing and her mom even talked to her about it, but as we all know, telling a mid­dle-schooler some­thing and hav­ing her ac­tu­ally do it, isn’t the same thing. “My mom didn’t want any of her kids smok­ing,” she says, and yet all three ended up smok­ing. Her fa­ther now has stage four lung can­cer and has quit. Her mom and her sib­lings have not.

Yet, Bren­den al­ways thought she would quit. She never thought she would be preg­nant and smok­ing. When she was in col­lege, she got en­gaged and be­came preg­nant. “It wasn’t the plan to be­come preg­nant while smok­ing,” she says. School and be­ing preg­nant was stress­ful, and the way that Bren­den knew how to deal with stress was to smoke.

The only con­ver­sa­tion she had with her doc­tor about smok­ing was “well, you’re not smok­ing very much.” Bren­den was still smok­ing a half a pack a day, down to the packa-day habit. She tried to quit and even tried a smok­ing ces­sa­tion pro­gram.

At 31 weeks, her wa­ter broke. She was rushed to a level three hos­pi­tal two hours away. No one told her it was be­cause of the smok­ing that caused her to have a pre­ma­ture baby. In­stead, they blamed it on the snow­storm and the change in the baro­met­ric pres­sure.

The birth and the weeks in the NICU “feels like a bad dream,” Bren­den says. “It’s hard to go back to that hos­pi­tal. The smell brings me back.”

Of course, once she started work­ing on smok­ing ces­sa­tion and talk­ing to women about their preg­nancy ex­pe­ri­ences, she now knows that her smok­ing played a part in her daugh­ter, who is now 10, be­ing born at 31 weeks ges­ta­tion. And she be­lieves her smok­ing and the pre­ma­ture birth have added to her daugh­ter’s asthma and al­ler­gies.

Even af­ter her daugh­ter was born, Bren­den tried many times to quit smok­ing. Quit­ting smok­ing was her New Year’s res­o­lu­tion ev­ery year. She tried ces­sa­tion drugs and hyp­no­tism. She even stopped once, but it didn’t stick. When she was preg­nant with her younger two chil­dren, who are now 7 and 4, she also smoked, though much less than be­fore. They were both born full-term.

Even though she wasn’t smok­ing in her house, she now knows what third-hand smoke can do. That’s the smoke that sits on your clothes, your skin, your hair. She thinks about hold­ing her chil­dren close to her with cig­a­rette smoke on her.

“It’s still hard,” she says of the guilt she feels, but do­ing the CDC ad, talk­ing to women about stop­ping smok­ing has re­ally helped her.

Bren­den fi­nally quit in 2012 and went to work for Wis­con­sin Womens Health Foun­da­tion in 2013.

She says the tim­ing was fi­nally right. “I re­ally feel like God was telling me it’s time to stop,” she says. She also didn’t want her chil­dren to re­mem­ber her as a smoker, and she thought about that ev­ery time she would hide out­side to smoke.

“It was al­ways some­thing I wanted to do,” she says. “I thought about it daily, with ev­ery cig­a­rette I smoked.”

Bren­den started ex­er­cis­ing, she lis­tened to wor­ship mu­sic, she prayed a lot. And she did it.

She al­most didn’t ap­ply to do the CDC ad, but she says, “I re­ally feel like God wanted me to,” she says.

“I know it would re­ally help women quit smok­ing,” she says. “They could re­al­ize, ‘It could hap­pen to me.” It did hap­pen to me.”

One of the other Tips from Smok­ers ads did in­spire her. Terry is seen put­ting in her teeth, then her wig on her head, then her tra­cheotomy cover, then a scarf to cover it. “I didn’t want that to hap­pen to me.”

Bren­den still thinks about smok­ing, es­pe­cially when she’s stressed out, but it’s a quick thought, she says. She prays and gives her­self pos­i­tive self talk: “You’ve got this.”

Tips from a For­mer Smoker started in 2012 and the CDC es­ti­mates that about 500,000 peo­ple have been in­spired to quit for good. It es­ti­mates that for ev­ery $2,000 it spends on ads, it pre­vents a death and for ev­ery $400, it pro­longs a


Amanda Bren­den’s CDC ad shares her tip from a for­mer smoker.

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