Native American Smokeout event creates awareness

Deborah Johnson-Fuller nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw a photo of herself depicting what she might look like at age 72 if she smoked a pack of cigarettes every day.

Deborah Johnson-Fuller nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw a photo of herself depicting what she might look like at age 72 if she smoked a pack of cigarettes every day.

"Is that scary or what?" she said of the image, which showed numerous wrinkles and skin discoloration. "I'm so glad I quit."

Johnson-Fuller, who is currently the cancer health educator for the Fond du Lac Reservation, tested the age progression software during the Great

Native American Smokeout event at the Fond du Lac Tribal Center last Thursday.

American Indians have the highest smoking rate of any ethnic minority, according to Lori Anderson of the Fond du Lac Human Services Division. With the general statistic of one in five Americans dying each year from smoking or secondhand smoking-related illnesses, the numbers are far worse for Native Americans, for whom the number is two in five, according to Anderson.


Reasons for the higher numbers range from targeted cigarette marketing campaigns to the cross-over from ceremonial use of tobacco to daily cigarette smoking, according to Johnson-Fuller.

"We need to differentiate between our uses of tobacco for one thing," she said.

The reservation still permits cigarette smoking in many of their buildings and the smokeout event at the Tribal Center went on amid people lighting up cigarettes.

Johnson-Fuller, who lives on the reservation, decided to quit smoking at age 49 because of her daughter.

"She's 11 and I'm now 51," she explained. "I need to do everything possible to make sure I'm around for her."

Although Johnson-Fuller used Quitplan services through the tribal clinic, quitting hasn't been easy.

"I've had my relapses, but I just take it one day at a time," she said.

The Great Native American Smokeout event is designed to bring the dangers of smoking and the positive aspects of quitting into focus and is an opportunity to find out exactly what assistance is available to help smokers quit. The event featured ClearWay Minnesota's photography exhibit visually portraying three Minnesotans' emotional, turbulent and triumphant journey to end tobacco use as documented by Doug Beasley of St. Paul. Representatives of ClearWay were also on hand to offer information about Minnesota's free, professional stop-smoking programs.


Smoker and tribal member Linda Savage also tried the age progression software and said the image of her at age 72 was "unreal."

"I think I just quit," she said.

According to Peterson, about 20 reservation members attend smoking cessation meetings each month at the Wiidoowkowishin Center. Any enrolled tribal member, their children or grandchildren, as well as reservation employees are eligible for the smoking cessation programs free of charge. In order to receive medication to help with quitting, however, people must participate in the program, Anderson said.

At the smokeout, a 14-year-old boy tried the age progression software. He said he began smoking at the beginning of the school year due to stress.

"For us, 14 is a typical age to start," Johnson-Fuller said. "I hope we can buy the [software] program so we can show every young person what this will do to them."

Johnson-Fuller planned to make copies of her age-progression photo and post them throughout her home and the home of her sister, who she frequently visits, to serve as a reminder.

"It's a struggle to quit smoking," she said. "But it's worth it."

For more information about smoking cessation programs call (218) 878-2128 or visit the Fond du Lac Web site at .

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