Go Smoke Free Go Smoke Free
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Approximately 43.4 million (or 1 in 5) US adults are current smokers, and smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke result in approximately 443,000 premature deaths in the United States annually. But this needn’t be the case. The third Thursday of November—which this year falls on November 20—marks the Great American Smokeout, an annual event that encourages smokers to quit for at least one day in the hope that this might challenge them to stop using tobacco permanently and to raise awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good.

The Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout grew out of a small-town event in Massachusetts in 1971, in which high-school guidance counselor Arthur Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for one day and donate the money they would otherwise have spent on cigarettes to a college scholarship fund. Then, in 1974, Lynn Smith, editor of Minnesota’s Monticello Times, organized the state’s first observance of "D-Day," or "Don’t Smoke Day." Starting in November, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS) adopted the idea and ultimately re-christened the event the Great American Smokeout, successfully convincing nearly a million smokers to quit for one day even in the event’s first year. Soon the event went nationwide under the sponsorship of ACS. (The Minnesota event continued as "D-Day" well into the 1980s, and the state even added a "Quit-and-Win" contest component for a time.)

Participation couldn’t be simpler: smokers quit for the 24 hours of the Smokeout. Even those who do not quit permanently will have learned that it is possible to quit for a day—and, perhaps, for the rest their lives.

The fact is that 70% of US smokers say they want to quit, and smoking cessation has substantial and immediate health benefits. Smokers who use proven interventions, such as assistance from a healthcare provider, FDA-approved medications, and behavioral counseling, greatly increase their likelihood of quitting permanently. Smokers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and certain US territories who want help in quitting can access 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) for free telephone counseling or referrals.

The Great American Smokeout also draws attention to the many other proven interventions that increase smoking cessation: reducing out-of-pocket cessation treatment costs; establishing smoke-free environments in homes, workplaces and restaurants; increasing the price of cigarettes; and mass media campaigns to inform and motivate tobacco users to quit.