The Great American Smokeout and how it began

  • Published
  • By Capt. Alexandra Hernandez
  • 97th Medical Operations Squadron
Since the 1970s the third Thursday of November has been known as the Great American Smokeout. This is an annual event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society that challenges people to stop using tobacco for the day. Tools are also made available to help people quit for good.

The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew from a 1971 event in Randolph, Massachusetts, when people were asked to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a scholarship fund for a local high school.

This concept of a "smoke free day" caught the attention of the American Cancer Society. The first official Great American Smokeout took place November 18, 1976 in California when one million smokers quit for the day. The following year, the society took the program nationwide.

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, the awareness raised by the Smokeout encouraged additional anti-tobacco efforts, which led to many state and local governments making new policies such as banning smoking in workplaces and restaurants, raising taxes on cigarettes, limiting cigarette promotions, discouraging teen cigarette use, and taking further action to counter smoking.

Over the years, the Smokeout has helped significantly in changing the attitudes of Americans about smoking in general. This heightened awareness draws attention to the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking. Communities are taking the initiative to develop programs and smoke-free laws, in efforts to create a healthier environment, which not only supports smokers who want to quit but also protects non-smokers from toxic second hand smoke.

Fortunately, the past few decades have seen great strides in changing attitudes about smoking, understanding the addiction, and learning how to help people quit. Today, the Great American Smokeout is still going strong and is celebrated throughout the United States in schools, workplaces, and communities with a whole host of activities.

This year the Great American Smokeout is scheduled to take place Nov. 15. As an incentive to get you to quit for the day, the Health and Wellness Center and the Altus dental clinic are providing small gifts for this commitment. Please stop by the HAWC or dental clinic to collect your complimentary coffee mug and hygiene kit. Thanks for all that you do.