Great American Smokeout: Tobacco and Americans
November 18th, 2010
05:33 PM ET

Great American Smokeout: Tobacco and Americans

In 1972, Arthur Mullaney had a creative idea.  The Randolph, Massachusetts, high school guidance counselor challenged his students and other people in the community to give up smoking for a day and to donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes toward a high school scholarship fund.  The event raised $4,500 dollars and sparked one of America's most famous public health movements.

Thursday is the 35th annual Great American Smokeout. In some ways, it is hard to remember a time when smoking was so prevalent.  If you are under 30, you may find it hard to believe that there was a time when everyone seemed to smoke, even pregnant moms a la Betty Draper on "Mad Men."  But through public health programs, clean air laws and anti-smoking campaigns on television shows (remember how Greg got caught with a pack of cigarettes on "The Brady Bunch"?) things have changed.  There are now more former smokers than current smokers in the United States.  But according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tobacco use is responsible for more than 440,000 deaths each year in the United States.  46 million Americans smoke: that's about 20 percent of adults and teenagers.

“Quitting smoking is a very important step in reducing cancer risk, as tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S.,” said Dr. Edward Partridge, national volunteer president for the American Cancer Society in a news release.  Thirty percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, are related to smoking.

But how many people quit as a result of the smokeout?  It's hard to tell.  The American Cancer Society doesn't keep count.  But Busola Afolabi, a spokesperson for the ACS, points to a national study found 45 percent of American smokers try to quit for at least one day in the past year.

So where should you start if you want to quit smoking?  The best thing, says experts, is to be realistic.  The American Cancer Society has set up on-line tools to help with smokers kick the habit, including a craving stopper.  If you are interested in learning more about how to quit smoking, click here.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I'll smoke only 2 packs instead of 3 ..Good enough?

    November 18, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sanya Bolivia

      Come on Mike! Why smoke? Do you know how unatractive that is? There is rat poisining and toilet cleaner in cigars. I just don't understand???

      November 18, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
    • richard

      I think they are taking this to far! We (smokers) should have rights just the same as everyone else. After all we pay the govt. a small fortune in taxes . If we all quit where would they get the money to support the govt. !

      November 19, 2010 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      @richard – if smoking could be done with a glass bowl over your head so the toxins didn't impact others around you and if smoking itself didn't cause us all to bear the cost of your health side effects, I don't think most people would care if you smoked or not. Unfortunately, neither is the case at this point.

      November 21, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse |
  2. cindy

    If your 18 its your choice to smoke people can choose not to buy it people gotta stop blaming the tob company they dont put a gun to your head n force u to have cancer that the smokers choice

    November 18, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      I don't get it, with all the other addictive drugs out there,(and we haven't even made a dent in the supply), then you add booze and obeisty and prescription drug abuse and a multitude of other unhealthy habits, Why is smoking always in the headlines, Government regulations are slowly but surely eroding our civil rights to make free choices. Thats scary!

      November 22, 2010 at 09:09 | Report abuse |
  3. tess

    My grandfather died from lung cancer because he smoked a pack a day for almost forty years. It broke my heart so I've never been tempted. However I think there are products out there like hooka, which comes across as safer than smoking cigerettes. That may be cause for a lot of new addictions, even though in some cases nicotine isnt even added.

    November 18, 2010 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Megan

      I have yet to meet a hookah smoker get addicted. I smoke unwashed (means very high in nicotine) maybe once and month, and I've never felt any ill effects. I've never smoked cigarettes, but my previously addicted boyfriend says he doesn't get cravings like he had when he was addicted.

      November 22, 2010 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  4. tony

    has the president quit smoking yet?? I wish the press would get on him about it.

    November 18, 2010 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. qaz668

    My mom finally got away from tobacco by switching to electronic cigarettes. She has smoked for over 50 years and every other way she had tried did not work for her. She did not switch to food either because unlike with the patch or pills, you do have something to do with your hands. If it can work for her, there are plenty others it can work for I think. If you want to learn more, the one that worked for her is http://www.CleanGreenNicotine.com

    November 19, 2010 at 03:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mandy

    When you choose to smoke you are choosing for others as well. You may be the one smoking but it is your family members who are suffering with the second hand smoke and all of it's effects, with the anguish of going through the chemo treatments with you, having to deal with the anger of your stupidity for choosing to smoke. I have had 3 close family members die due to "choosing" to smoke. Now, my husband has head and neck cancer from smoking and "we" the family are having to deal with everything because he "chose" to smoke with us begging him to quit. Choosing to smoke when knowing what could and more than likely will happen is a selfish act in my opinion. Smokers will come up with every lame excuse to continue when all the facts are right in front of you. Hubby's excuse was he liked it and made him calm and felt good. I guarentee you h isn't calm now and he isn't feeling good now. He said he regrets he ever picked up a cigarette.

    November 19, 2010 at 05:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • char

      @ Mandy ~ I feel you on this one. I also had 3 relatives to pass from smoking. I was a smoker some years ago and I prayed on it and ask to be released, I did it cold turkey and never looked back. I know not a lot of people can't do that but I pray for strenght for the ones who can.

      November 22, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
    • MANDY


      December 3, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    The FDA wants to ban 4loko because a bunch of idiot college students drank too much too fast and blacked out. They claim tobacco KILLS 400,000 people every year, and that is ok? Its hard to decide if the gov't if dominated by idiots or hypocrites.

    November 19, 2010 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. David

    Smoking killed both my parents, and I quit over 20 years ago. Will never touch another one. The cigarette companies don't care that they're helping you kill yourself. All they want is for people to continue to be addicted so they can make money.

    Quitting was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it took 3 times before I made it. It's tough I know, but if you value your quality of life you'll make the decision to do it.

    November 19, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SabineTawni

      David: My father died in June of 2005 of lung cancer. He was a non-smoker of 30 years at the time of his diagnosis. There are many people who smoke, quit, and they still get lung cancer. There are people who have never smoked and still get lung cancer. The American medical profession and the American Cancer Society mislead people into thinking that quitting or never starting smoking will save them. Often times, it does not.

      November 22, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  9. hunt

    the tobacco industry is getting away with murder.......they have been increasing the levels of nicotine and adding more chemicals to make their products addictive, harder to quit.

    force them to sell only tobacco, no additives, no adjusting nicotine levels...or better yet, remove the nicotine and let people get their nicotine from gum, patches, etc.

    either that of legalize all drugs.

    November 20, 2010 at 08:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. the truth

    I would rather smoke than be morbidly obese. Thats the BIGGEST preventable cause taking a toll on our health care system.

    November 20, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      Ironic that "the truth" is an anti-smoking group. What you said is like saying "well Mussolini was not as bad as Hitler". Both were very bad. Smoking causes more collateral damage that obesity in that smoking effects everyone around you, whereas obesity mainly impacts you personally. Both you're right that both are a significant problem that needs to be addressed.

      November 21, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse |
  11. Odalice feliz

    I'm so happy I have a 1 1/2 with out lighting up a cigarette.

    November 20, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JCizzle

    Cigars are where it's at.

    November 21, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zach

      haha way to end it jcizzle

      November 22, 2010 at 09:36 | Report abuse |
  13. KiltinSA

    As someone who dates a former smoker, I can honestly say that her skin doesn't have that dry, wrinkled, haggard look anymore. The toll that smoking takes on your appearance is unbelieveable.

    November 22, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Patricia

    As a person who has smoked for the past 35 years and just put down the smokes five days ago, I can tell you this – NO ONE – and I mean NO ONE – is going to quit until they're ready. And not a moment sooner. I've prayed for years about it, have recovered from other addictions – but this smoking? Pure evil. I guess I've been blessed to FINALLY have had enough. It's just not worth it any more – and I agree w/some of these comments in that is truly IS a selfish, selfish addiction.

    November 22, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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