History of Great American Smokeout
The inception of the Great American Smokeout stems from a 1970 event in Randolph, Massachusetts. High school guidance councilor Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for one day and donate the money they would have spent on buying cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund. A few years later in 1974, newspaper editor Lynn R. Smith led Minnesota’s first Don’t Smoke Day. The two efforts caught on and on November 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society got 1 million people to quit smoking for the day. This marked the first official Smokeout before the American Cancer Society took it nationwide in 1977. As a result, there was a dramatic change in the public view of tobacco advertising and use. Many public establishments and work places are now smoke-free to protect non-smokers and support people trying to quit.
Every year the Great American Smokeout draws attention to preventing deaths and chronic illnesses caused by smoking. From the late 1980s to the 1990s, many state and local governments have raised taxes on cigarettes, limited promotions, discouraged teen cigarette use, and taken further action to counter smoking. States with strong tobacco control laws saw up to a 42% decrease of smoking in adults.
Though smoking rates have dropped, almost 38 million Americans still smoke tobacco, and about half of all smokers will encounter smoking related deaths. Each year, more than 480,000 people in the United States die from a smoking related illness, meaning smoking causes 1 out of 5 deaths in the US alone.
Great American Smokeout timeline
This new law placed specific restrictions on marketing tobacco products to children.
San Francisco was the first city to pass restrictions banning smoking in private workplaces.
San Francisco held the first Great American Smokeout. From here, many other cities followed suit and the day became more widely celebrated.
Throughout the '70s, people began to think about smoking differently as the negative effects became more widely known. People also started movements encouraging others to quit.
Great American Smokeout FAQs
What day is the Great American Smokeout?
The Great American Smokeout occurs annually on the third Thursday of November, meaning it lands on November 21 this year.
When was the first Great American Smokeout?
Though the first recorded effort to get a group of people to stop smoking for a day happened in 1970 Massachusetts, the first nationwide Great American Smokeout occurred in 1977.
What is quit for life?
How to Observe Great American Smokeout
Make a plan
Learn about options to curb cravings and get your support system ready to help you through hard times. If you're trying to help someone else quit, check out some ways to ensure you're doing it the right way.
Get rid of anything smoking-related
It's the perfect day to remove all smoking-related items from your home. Remove all cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters from your car and workplace as well. Also consider stocking up on substitutes like gum and crunchy snacks.
Reflect on your smoking past
If you've tried to quit before, the Great American Smokeout is a good time to reflect on your past attempts. Think about why those attempts didn't work, and go back to the drawing board for the next time around.
4 Famous Ex-Smokers You Never Knew Smoked At All
The Academy Award-winning actress smoked frequently as a teen and didn't decide to quit until she was pregnant with her first child.
The former president quit with the help of Nicorette gum, hoping to set a good example for his daughters.
The "Friends" star quit smoking successfully by turning to yoga and other exercise to keep her mind off of cigarettes.
The actress admitted she used cigarettes as a way to slim down for her role in "Black Swan," but has since given up the habit.
Why Great American Smokeout is Important
A single day can help people take the first step
The Great American Smokeout highlights the dangers of smoking tobacco and provides a meaningful way for people to avoid cigarettes. It also offers a comfortable environment for family members and friends to speak about tobacco and how to quit smoking.
It brings people together
Not only does the Great American Smokeout speak to the negative effects of smoking, but it also helps people come together in the name of quitting. People trying to quit can communicate with one another online using the hashtag #GreatAmericanSmokeout, or by attending local events in various cities.
It provides resources to quit
The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout website provides resources, news, and stories about the journey to quit smoking. Smokers can find inspiration and tips to increase their chances of quitting successfully.
Great American Smokeout dates