Ministry Mom featured in national “Tips from Former Smokers’’ TV campaign

A young Wisconsin mother’s story about her addiction to smoking and its impact on her baby’s health was launched this month in a new ad for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) summer-long “Tips from Former Smokers’’ campaign.

The emotional TV spot, launched in nearly every market in the United States this month, features Eau Claire mother Amanda Brenden whose daughter was born two months early at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital with a dangerously low birth weight. She tells the nation her smoking addiction played a central role in her baby’s health problems such as asthma that still plague her.

Click Here to See Amanda's Story

In the heartbreaking ad, Brenden describes the experience of watching over her daughter during the four weeks she spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Marshfield.

“Even though I knew smoking during my pregnancy could harm my baby, I didn’t really think it could happen to me and the addiction to cigarettes was so strong,” said Brenden. “I hope my story shows other women that this really can happen to you and your baby and inspires them to get the help they need to quit.”

Brenden recently participated in a state wide media tour to launch the Ad and specifically encouraged pregnant women who smoke to seek out the quit smoking resources provided by Wisconsin’s First Breath program. “It’s a great program that emphasizes compassion in helping pregnant women quit smoking. They’re not there to judge you—they just want to help you and your baby to be healthy.”

According to a report from the UW-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives & Research, 13 percent of pregnant women in Wisconsin currently smoke and that percentage rises to nearly 18% in Central WI, above the national average of 10 percent.

More broadly, about one in five adults in Wisconsin – and nationwide – uses some form of tobacco regularly, according to the CDC’s National Adult Tobacco Survey. Tobacco use kills almost a half million Americans a year, and kills 19 people a day in Wisconsin.

Joe Rohling, Manager of Respiratory Therapy Services at Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston took part in the media tour stop in Wausau to reinforce the message of it’s never too late to make the effort to quit smoking.

“Amanda showed a lot of courage to come forward and tell her story,” said Rohling. “The risks from smoking by women have risen sharply over the last 50 years and are now equal to those for men for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases.”

CDC hopes the Tips from Former Smokers campaign reverses those trends. In past years, the campaign doubled calls to the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line and generated 650,000 new visitors to its website. (

Pregnant women in Wisconsin interested in receiving quit smoking help through the First Breath program should call 1-800-448-5148. Other individuals that use tobacco products and want to quit should call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW.

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