The Great American Smokeout might conjure up images of juicy smoked briskets and delectable racks of saucy ribs, but that’s not what this event is about. It carries far more weight than that. The American Cancer Society has been hosting the Great American Smokeout for over 40 years. Its mission? To encourage smoking Americans to take that lifesaving first step in kicking the habit. It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for our health and leads to countless diseases, including numerous forms of cancer. Despite that knowledge, about 38 million Americans continue to light up every day.
The First Great American Smokeout
Inspired by a couple of smaller anti-smoking events in the early 1970s in Massachusetts and Minnesota, the California Division of the American Cancer Society held an event on November 18, 1976, that got almost one million smokers to quit smoking for the day. This marked the first official Smokeout and it went nationwide the next year.
Every third Thursday in November is now set aside for the Great American Smokeout. Marked by rallies and parades throughout the U.S.A, it’s a chance for individuals and organizations of all kinds to challenge smokers in their communities to finally quit, whether that means using the day to make their smoking cessation plan or using it to officially mark the first day of their smoke-free journey.
Smoking can be a long-time addiction for many Americans, so you might wonder how this one day can help. Thanks to events like this over the years, there have been countless advancements in anti-smoking laws and policies.
1977: Berkeley, California, becomes the first community to eliminate smoking in restaurants and other public locations.
1990: A Federal smoke-free law takes effect restricting smoking on all domestic flights of six hours or less.
1999: Cigarette manufacturers are hit with a suit from the Department of Justice, charging them for defrauding the public by lying about the serious risks of tobacco use.
2009: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is passed into law. Through this, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is given the power to regulate all manufacturing, selling and marketing of tobacco products to the American public.
This Year’s Theme
This year’s Smokeout takes place on November 15, 2018, and the theme is, “Day One.” This theme reflects the knowledge that finally butting out for good is not an easy thing to do. The crucial first step is having a plan and understanding that overcoming a nicotine addiction will take time and a lot of patience.
Here are some general tips to help encourage those in your community to quit:
Do let the person know they can come to you to talk, especially when they need encouragement to keep going.
Do offer to get the person whatever they need to diminish cravings, such as gum, hard candy or something healthy to eat.
Do spend time doing activities together, such as going for a walk, seeing a movie, so the person can keep their mind off of smoking.
Do celebrate each day that the person doesn’t smoke. Smoking can appear to be an “old friend” for an ex-smoker – one it’s very tough to say good-bye to.
Don’t take it personally if the person is grumpy toward you. Let them know that the nicotine withdrawal symptoms are temporary.
Don’t voice doubts that the person can keep to their plan of not smoking. It is not productive and doesn’t make the quitter feel as though they can really overcome this addiction.
Don’t nag or tease the person. This could make them feel badly or stressed and light up to ease hurt or tense feelings.
Tips & Tools
Visit Cancer.org for more information and to find tools and resources to promote this annual event in your community. Download flyers, posters and table signs to advertise activities and you might also print stickers, handouts and quit cards to distribute. Go to Smokefree.gov for even more tips to help you start your quit journey.
For more information on Health & Wellness products available to purchase for your community, browse the Quickseries® library of guides, including Freedom From Tobacco: Be Smoke-Free