All About The Great American Smokeout
Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout® by smoking less or quitting for the day on the third Thursday of November. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and helps make people aware of the many tools they can use to quit for good.
In many towns and communities, local volunteers support quitters, publicize the event, and press for laws that control tobacco use and discourage teenagers from starting.
Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as:
- nicotine replacement products
- stop-smoking groups
- telephone smoking cessation hotlines
- prescription medicine to lessen cravings
- guide books
- encouragement and support from friends and family members
Using 2 or more of these measures to help you quit works better than using any one of them alone. For example, some people use a prescription medicine along with nicotine replacement. Other people may use as many as 3 or 4 of the other measures listed above.
Telephone stop smoking hotlines are an easy-to-use resource. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345) to find telephone counseling or other support in your area.
Support is out there, but the most recent information suggests that fewer than 1 in 4 smokers reports having tried any of the recommended therapies during his or her last quit attempt.
How the Great American Smokeout began
The Smokeout has helped bring about dramatic changes in Americans’ attitudes about smoking. These changes have led to community programs and smoke-free laws that are now saving lives in many states. Annual Smokeouts began in the 1970s when smoking and secondhand smoke were commonplace.
The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew out of a 1974 event. Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day. The idea may have been inspired by Arthur P. Mullaney of Randolph, Massachusetts. Three years earlier, Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund.
The idea caught on, and on November 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully got nearly 1 million smokers to quit for the day. That California event marked the first Smokeout, and the Society took it nationwide in 1977.
The Great American Smokeout fuels new laws and saves lives
Each year, the Great American Smokeout also draws attention to the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, many state and local governments responded by banning smoking in workplaces and restaurants, raising taxes on cigarettes, limiting cigarette promotions, discouraging teen cigarette use, and taking further actions to counter smoking.
Those states with strong tobacco control laws are now reaping the fruits of their labor. They have markedly lower smoking rates and fewer people dying of lung cancer, according to a 2020 report in Cancer Causes and Control. The study found that lung cancer death rates among adults age 30-39 were lower and falling in most states that had strong anti-tobacco programs. In states with weak tobacco control, lung cancer rates were higher and climbing. Another study published in 2020 showed this trend between tobacco control and lung cancer continues.
Today, about 34 million US adults smoke. Tobacco use can cause lung cancer, as well as other cancers, heart disease, and lung disease. Smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 3 cancer deaths, and 1 in 5 deaths from all causes. Another 8.6 million people are living with serious illnesses caused by smoking.
Fortunately, the past few decades have seen great strides in changing attitudes about smoking, in understanding the addiction, and in learning how to help people quit.
Reasons to Quit
20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.
12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
Want to Learn More?
Visit the American Cancer Society website to learn more.