When Smokers Quit


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The Health Benefits Over Time

20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.
(Effect of Smoking on Arterial Stiffness and Pulse Pressure Amplification, Mahmud, A, Feely, J. 2003. Hypertension:41:183.)
12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp.193, 194,196, 285, 323)

1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)

1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 131, 148, 152, 155, 164,166)

15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)


What’s in Secondhand Cigarette Smoke?


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There are over 4,000 chemicals – including:

Cancer Causing Agents

  • Nitrosamines
  • Crysenes
  • Cadmium
  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Polonium 210
  • Nickel
  • P.A.H.s
  • Dibenz Acidine
  • B-Napthylamine
  • Urethane
  • N. Nitrosonornicotine
  • Toluidine


  • Aluminum
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Mercury
  • Gold
  • Silicon
  • Silver
  • Titanium
  • Lead
  • Copper


  • Nail Polish Remover

Acetic Acid

  • Vinegar


  • Floor/Toilet Cleaner


  • Poison


  • Cigarette Lighter Fluid


  • Rechargeable Batteries

Carbon Monoxide

  • Car Exhaust Fumes


  • Insecticides


  • Alcohol


  • Preserver – Body Tissue and Fabric


  • Barbecue Lighter

Hydrogen Cyanide

  • Gas Chamber Poison


  • Swamp Gas


  • Rocket Fuel


  • Mothballs


  • Insecticide/Addictive Drug


  • Gasoline Additive

Nitrous Oxide Phenols

  • Disinfectant

Stearic Acid

  • Candle Wax

* Source: Stanton A. Glantz, Tobacco:  Biology and Politics / Waco, TX: Health Edco, 1992

Cancer Survivor Shares Story


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Written by Meagan Farley

“It was really gross and the pictures were just really gross,” said Hayden High School Junior Lauren Frost. She sat among her classmates Monday as Don Young shared his story.

“I didn’t have that type of education in school. They need to be told the effects of what tobacco does and that not everyone is going to get cancer but some people will,” said Young, who started smoking at fourteen years old.

Tobacco has taken its toll. Doctors removed his cancer riddled voice box, leaving him speechless. Then he underwent a 19 hour surgery to remove part of his neck and entire esophagus.

“When my throat blew out they said they lost me on the table so I’ve been given a second chance.”

Young used that second chance Monday to educate Hayden High School students.

The American Cancer Society estimates nine out of ten current smokers started using tobacco when they were teens.

Currently in Kansas, 21 percent of teens report smoking cigarettes.

“I don’t want to do that now especially seeing all that stuff on the projector,” said Junior Rick Rineburg.

“I think a lot of people are going to be talking about how gross this was when we go back to class,” said Frost.

“I know I’m not going to stop everyone from smoking or drinking or doing any other drugs but I think some of them will take this to heart and not do it because they see me and the reality of it and I believe that or I wouldn’t be doing this,” said Young.

* Copyright 2007 NBC (original content from http://www.ksnt.com/home/ticker/11220901.html)

Man on a Mission


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Written by Lynn Kalesh and Irma Gibbons

In 1992, Don Young’s voice began to get hoarse and he thought it was just a cold. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and a malignant node was removed. Two months later his larynx (voice box) was also removed and he received six weeks of radiation treatment, but his cancer recurred. At this point, he underwent a total laryngectomy and was given less than a year to live.

During a 19-hour surgery in 1993, the front and right side, along with part of the left side of his neck was removed. A portion of his small intestine was removed and transplanted in his neck to make a new esophagus. His chest was cut in order to use the chest muscle to wrap around the front of his neck and skin was grafted from the top of his leg to cover this. The transplant was rejected.

Don went back to surgery and a tube was placed in his neck so he could swallow saliva. Another tube was inserted in his stomach for eleven months to allow him to receive food and medicine. When he regained his strength, he underwent a procedure whereby his stomach was pulled up and attached to the back of his throat to make a new esophagus. The passage will not stay open by itself, so every morning he has to dilate the opening by inserting a two-foot flexible tube down his throat for five minutes. This enables him to eat and drink all day. Also, he cannot bend or lie flat to sleep, and can no longer talk and now uses an electro-larynx (hand-held electronic voice box). He is not able to breathe through his nose or mouth; he has a tracheostomy – a hole in his throat that opens directly to his lungs. Because of the very real danger of drowning if water gets into the trach, Don cannot go swimming and must take care while showering. In spite of all this, he has made a miraculous recovery and has been cancer free since 1993.

Don Young could have just given up, but he didn’t. He is the perfect example of making up your mind to survive cancer, then doing it. But the story would not end here. When he began to regain his strength, he desperately wanted to stop others from making the same mistake; he knew his throat cancer was caused by 34 years of a two-pack-a-day smoking habit, which he started at the age of fourteen. Becoming a driving force in the American Cancer Society’s Tobacco School Health program, he has committed himself to educating young people about the dangers of tobacco and speaks to the public at schools and churches. He is relentless in his mission and, along with his wife Kay, volunteers his services to numerous cancer-related services throughout Missouri.

Young coached softball and soccer for 28 years and continues to coordinate the St. Charles County church softball leagues. He is also involved in the church youth group. In addition, Don is a Shriner’s clown. For the past two years he has participated in the Illinois and Missouri state Senior Olympics games, winning 28 medals.

Don Young doesn’t consider himself an exceptional person – just one who has come to understand that his life and the lives of others are worth fighting for.

* Reprinted by permission of Coping Magazine.

From Police Officer Holly Sticken

Dear Mr. Young,

I would like to take a minute and say how thankful I am that you were able to be a presenter at the Missouri D.A.R.E. Officers’ State Training Conference that was held in Springfield, MO. You did an excellent job in your workshop. I know that many of the officers walked away with information they have not received in past training sessions.


Police Officer Holly Sticken

Fighting Tobacco on All Fronts


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In 1992 at the age of 48, Don Young became cancer statistic. He was diagnosed with throat cancer. A series of treatments and surgeries followed. Don had a malignant node removed, half of his larynx removed, radiation treatments, and a total laryngectomy only to be told he had six months to live. He began another series of surgeries that removed the front, right side, and part of the left side of his neck. A portion of Don’s small intestine was transplanted to form his esophagus. Muscle from his chest and skin from his leg completed the procedure. The small intestine transplant was rejected and a tube was then inserted in its place. Another tube was placed in his stomach to provide an opening to insert nourishment and medication for the thirteen months he couldn’t eat.

“I was placed in rehabilitation for three months to regain my strength for the next surgery. This surgery involved pulling my stomach up to attach to the back of my throat to form a new esophagus,” recalls Don. “My desire to be a cancer survivor shows my stamina and determination to be a living statistic.”

Since the age of 14, Don developed a two pack-a-day smoking habit that continued for the next 34 years. “It rendered me a life that requires inserting a two-foot tube down my throat every morning to dilate the opening so I am able to eat and drink throughout the day. I cannot bend or lie flat to sleep because the sphincter muscle has been removed leaving a direct opening to the stomach. I cannot breathe or talk through my nose or mouth. A tracheostomy, hole in my neck, allows me to breathe and a mechanical device allows me to communicate. I will take medication for the rest of my life,” Don said. Despite these hardships, he has been cancer-free for 14 years, and is thankful for each day as a cancer survivor.

As a result of his own battle with cancer, he is committed to the fight against smoking. “When I started smoking as a teenager, this was not the picture of the life I thought I would be living someday. I have overcome many physical obstacles and have chosen to take the knowledge I have learned from my experiences to educate young people to make the right choice,” said Don.

Don’s fight against smoking has taken him into schools, colleges, churches, youth organizations, public forums, medical schools, and corporations to speak with people about his experience. His presentation includes facts and statistics that challenge young people to think about their choices. “I share with them that in my group of five high school friends, three had cancer, and I am the only survivor.”

Don’s time and energy is devoted to speaking to young people. However he is also active in the lives of cancer patients, bringing them hope for recovery, the compassion to help them endure treatment, and the encouragement to live life to the fullest. Don is thankful for the American Cancer Society, “The Society continues to guide and support me and my wife, Kay, when we’ve needed them the most.” Don volunteers with the Society, and other community and health organizations. Since his cancer diagnosis, Don feels he’s taken on new purpose. “I am able to make a difference in the lives of young people and their families. As a cancer survivor, I feel compelled to take my story to the youth of our nation.”

“You just never know when smoking is going to come back to haunt you,” said Don. Currently as a result of smoking, Don has been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease, in which he has had his aortic valve replaced, had two stints placed in his heart, as well as one stint placed in each leg. Nevertheless, he continues to be a tireless advocate for tobacco cessation efforts, speaking across the country. To contact Don about his advocacy efforts, visit http://www.youngchoices.org.

* Originally published in the Great American Smokeout newsletter

Early Testimonials

Don’s message to people of all ages impacts theirs lives concerning smoking and the use of tobacco. Below you will find excerpts from just a few of the many letters he has received from both program attendees and hosts.

What do students have to say?

“I knew smoking was bad for you, but hearing your talk made me realize it’s much worse than I thought.”
Amanda Turek
Queen of All Saints School

“I have had a lot of people talk to me about smoking, but none of them worked. Until you came, I didn’t think tobacco was that bad. Out of all the people who have talked to me, you are the only one who made me feel that cigarettes were very harmful.”
Jeff Baren
Oakville Jr. High School

“You presentation had a huge impact on students here. The pictures made some students cringe and I heard many people telling their friends that they were going to stop smoking.”
Tara Cluck
St. Charles High School
St. Charles, MO

“I learned many things in [Don’s] presentation. I often told people that I had never planned to smoke, but now I KNOW that I’m not going to…”
K.C. Wright
Manhattan, KS

“…your presentation has really made an impact on our student body…Many of our students could end up owing their lives to you…”
Mary Geldmacher, Kevin Haar, Adam Skaggs, Steve Walther
Vianney High School
St. Louis, MO

“…When I first heard that [Don Young] was coming, I was hesitant to think that anything good was going to come out of it. I was sure that it was going to be boring…I was completely wrong.”
Anonymous Student
Manhattan, KS

What do adults think about Don?

“…many have come forward to pledge that they have decided to quit smoking. Parents have called to say what a tremendous impression that you have made in their child’s life.”
Kathy Venverloh, RN
School Nurse
Oakville Senior High School

“…it had a dramatic impact on my daughter and her friends. She told me all about it. Half of the kids were crying and the other half sickened by the graphic truth. She said they won’t smoke anymore. I want you to know that the talks you are giving are doing some good!”
Sheila Briggs
Sperreng Middle School

“…My teachers came up to me and said your presentation was a topic of discussion among students. The students felt the presentation was extremely effective…”
Mike McMullin
Dansville High School
Dansville, NY

“…[a local reporter in attendance] stopped me last week and said he officially quit smoking the Monday after your talk. He said he has not smoked since. The principal at the Middle School told me the custodian also quit smoking after hearing your presentation…”
Mark B.
Great Bend Police Department
Gread Bend, KS

“…One student took his tobacco out of his pocket and threw it into the garbage as he left our program! Many youth were very concerned about their parents who are using tobacco and I feel sure that they took the message home to their families…”
Joan Smith
Health Department
Riley County, KS

“…Don is one of the most reliable and valuable volunteers for many tobacco control events. I would recommend him to anyone who wants a presentation on tobacco…”
April Gross
American Cancer Society
St. Louis, MO

“Don Young has been one of Tobacco-Free Missouri’s most cherished volunteers…He has provided an invaluable service to the coalition by sharing his potentially life-saving message with thousands of school-age children each year…”
Pat Lindsey
Tobacco-Free Missouri
St. Louis, MO

“…The comments that I have heard since [our tobacco-prevention assemply], both from teachers and from students, have been very positive…”
Mark Penny, Becky Dulany
Moberly High School
Moberly, MO

“Thank you so much for agreeing to speak to the seventh and eighth grade students…The students really seemed to understand that they have the power to make vital decisions in their lives…”
Marlene Kuster
Immaculate Conception School
Jefferson City, MO