The Great American Smokeout 2009

The 32nd annual Great American Smokeout

Its bad for you (image by flickr)

It's bad for you (image by flickr)

The American Cancer Society is observing the Great American Smokeout 2009 on Thursday, November 19th.  The Great American Smokeout is observed the third Thursday of November, as a day where people are supposed to not smoke the entire day.  The event began in the late 70s, and the first Great American Smokeout, or at least the event with that title, was in 1977, in California. Less than 25% of Americans are smokers. The habit is not only bad for you, it’s also expensive.  Granted, spending less quick cash on the habit isn’t the best motivation for people to quit, as the health issue alone is sufficient.

The first event of it’s kind was in 1971

Though the first Great American Smokeout, or at least an event given that specific title, was held in 1977, the first observance of it’s kind took place in 1971.  Arthur Mullaney, of Randolph, Massachusetts, was a guidance counselor at the local high school and thought that if the school got a nickel for every cigarette butt he saw outside, they could send most of the students to college.  So he got an idea – get the town to stop smoking for a day, and donate what they would have spent on cigs to the school.  (The story is located on the American Cancer Society website.)  After getting the idea in the fall of 1970, they held the event the following February.  The students raised over $4,000 the first year and kept doing it every year since then.  They  formed committees to determine who got scholarship funds.  A few years later, a similar movement was successful in Minnesota as Lynn Smith, then editor of the Monticello Times, got participating Minnesotans to abstain on D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day.

It always starts in California

In 1976, the California chapter of the American Cancer Society had a statewide smoke free day, calling it the Great American Smokeout, on November 18th.  In 1977, it went national, and it’s been an annual observance ever since. This is the 32nd year.

It has been working

Since the 1970s, the number of smoking Americans has declined, and not just because of deaths from the habit.  Though lung cancer remains the number one cause of death in cancer patients, the number one killer in the USA remains heart disease. Between 1965 and 2006, the percentage of people in the USA that smoke dropped from 42% to just over 20%.  It is slightly more prevalent in men than women, and more prevalent among those with a high school education or less, and also more prevalent in people who live close to or below the poverty line.

Quitting is difficult, but a worthwhile pursuit

More studies have shown that the “cold turkey” method is not the most reliable.  It has also been posted that it takes an average of 8 attempts at quitting before it will be successful.  Therapy, quitting aids, nicotine gum or patches, or even medications are all effective in kicking the butts to the curb. Quitting if you do smoke or use tobacco, will pay off in the long run.  Whether your motivation is the Great American Smokeout 2009, or just for yourself, quitting smoking is like a cash advance to your own health.