November 21, 2013 marked the American Cancer Society’s 38th annual Great American Smokeout, a day to encourage smokers to quit. This year, the NYC Coalition partnered with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) held an event to celebrate the occasion at BODY WORLDS: Pulse, an exhibition that displays preserved human bodies and reveals inner anatomical structures. Throughout November 2013, BODY WORLDS will have a free display in the main lobby of the lungs of a smoker and non-smoker side-by-side.
I welcomed visitors while standing next to the Smoker’s Body, which shows how smoking damages the body. The lungs, blackened by years of smoking, can be seen through the interstices of the ribs.
During the event, Marie Wilkins, a former smoker, told her story, which reminded everyone that tobacco use is not only the leading cause of preventable death, but can also greatly affect your life. Marie, a smoker for 40 years, began smoking in high school. After years of attempting to unsuccessfully quit, she was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease, a disorder linked to tobacco use. Over time, parts of Marie’s body, such as her feet, fingertips and lower legs, required amputation.
“There was no way that I would have known that at 42, they were going to amputate my leg,” said Marie Wilkins. “That’s the chance you take when you smoke cigarettes and get addicted.”
The BODY WORLDS exhibit shows you what tobacco-related disease looks like. Marie told us what it feels like. Marie concluded, “Maybe my experience will make people stop and think before they light up.”
Across the rest of the City, our Borough Smoke-Free Partnerships also held special Great American Smokeout events.
This holiday season, we hope people will heed Marie’s advice and make a plan to quit smoking for good.