Tammy, age 50, lives in Michigan. She is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribe. She started smoking menthol cigarettes at age 21. Tammy ate healthy, exercised regularly, and ran marathons. But at age 44, Tammy learned she had severe heart disease and needed open-heart surgery.


Tammy, age 50, is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribe and lives in Michigan. A life-long runner, Tammy always ate right and stayed away from drugs and alcohol.

But for years, Tammy smoked menthol cigarettes. She told herself that smoking was a “side hobby” instead of an addiction. She thought that menthol cigarettes were less harmful than non-menthol cigarettes, and that exercising and eating right would keep her safe. However, by the age of 44, Tammy needed open-heart surgery to keep her alive.

Since her recovery, Tammy still runs, but not as far or as fast as she used to. “I miss not being able to run as far as I want to,” she said.

Tammy quit smoking after her surgery. “Open-heart surgery and the possibility of dying motivated me,” she said. “Life is a gift. I want to stay here as long as I can.”


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