CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “I smoked my first cigarette when I was in 5th grade.”
That confession from a former smoker named Amanda is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new “Tips From Smokers Campaign.”
On Thursday, Amanda, whose last name was not given, made a stop for the campaign in West Virginia.
She spoke at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center alongside Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health in the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
By the end of high school, Amanda estimated she was smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes every day and remained at that level for years.
For her, cigarettes were a mechanism for coping with stress.
“As a smoker I always thought I’d be able to put it down easily when I wanted to,” she said.
“I never thought that I would be smoking when I was pregnant but nicotine is really addictive and I wasn’t able to quit while I was pregnant.”
Her daughter was born two months early, weighed three pounds and was hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“It was a really scary place to be with a new baby,” Amanda said.
Today, Amanda’s daughter is 12 and deals with severe allergy issues that trigger her asthma.
It was about six years ago when Amanda was able to quit smoking for good.
In 2017, the CDC reported West Virginia had the highest adult smoking rate in the United States at 26 percent. Each year, 4,300 West Virginians die from smoking-related illnesses.
Amanda said those who want to quit should keep trying to do so.
“It’s never too late to quit,” she said. “You will notice the health benefits almost immediately and it’s the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.”
“I never thought I’d be smoking still while I was pregnant,” said former smoker Amanda. As part of @CDCgov‘s Tips From Former Smokers® Campaign, she joined @WV_DHHR‘s Dr. Cathy Slemp, today in @charlestoncity to tell her story. Watch the full press event: https://t.co/5ItwKDrY7d pic.twitter.com/87a6ow6lxY
— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 16, 2019