Smoker No More: Ex-Smoker Becomes Convert for Anti-Smoking Cause

This story was gathered from David Snyder's visit to Brazil. David reports on CDC programs in action for the CDC Foundation.

With a calm tone and gentle presence, his salt and pepper hair combed neatly back, Paulo Tavares seems a bit at odds with the rough and tumble of the urban taxi stand where he works. But Tavares’ gentle nature belies an underlying street smarts earned by decades on the streets of Manaus, Brazil. It was that life Tavares, now 62, also blames for introducing him to cigarettes.

“I started smoking when I was just 10 or 11 years old,” Tavares says. “My father died when I was young, and my mother was a domestic worker and she lived away. I went to the streets to sell things and people offered me cigarettes, so I accepted.”

Like many smokers Tavares says he started with just a few cigarettes a day, but was quickly addicted. While still a teenager he was smoking as many as two packs a day and says there were times when he got up in the middle of the night and drove out into the city to buy cigarettes when he ran out. Though he recognized the impact that his habit was having on his health, Tavares says he simply could not quit.

“I couldn’t stop,” Tavares says. “I tried about ten times. But each time I returned and smoked even more.”

While he struggled for years to quit, Paulo Tavares says the impulse to smoke simply left him one day after attending church with his daughter. Since quitting, Tavares says he feels much better and has more energy for work than he used to. Now active in encouraging others to quit smoking, he no longer allows people to smoke in his taxi and thinks that the government anti-smoking campaigns are an effective tool in helping to dissuade others from starting.

“I think a lot has changed because of the actions of the government,” Tavares says. “I think people are becoming aware of the bad things about cigarettes, and the pictures on the labels are having an impact.”

As an ex-smoker, Tavares explains the hazards of smoking to others he meets. He often uses a favorite line he devised.

“When I see people smoking I say, ‘Do you know what that cigarette is saying? Today you light me up, tomorrow I turn you off.’”

by David Snyder


As one of a number of partners in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, the CDC Foundation works with experts at CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). GATS collects data on adult tobacco use and the effectiveness of tobacco control measures among adults in more than 15 countries. Data collected through GATS will help improve policies, interventions and public health messaging to reduce smoking in these countries.

Funding Partner:

Bloomberg Philanthropies

GATS Program Partners:

CDC, World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, RTI International

Bloomberg Initiative Partners:

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, World Lung Foundation Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

CDC Principal Investigator:

Samira Asma, D.D.S., M.P.H. Associate Director, Global Tobacco Control Branch, Office on Smoking and Health, CDC

Terri Heyns, MA, is the associate vice president for communications for the CDC Foundation.