The Great American Smokeout: How You Can Help Yourself and Others Stop Smoking

The Great American Smokeout: How You Can Help Yourself and Others Stop Smoking
November 11, 2022
RxLocal Team

There’s a holiday for any and every occasion. Want to talk like a pirate? International Talk Like a Pirate Day is there for you.

Need to remind yourself of the importance of washing your hands? Look no further than Global Handwashing Day (though you should be washing your hands every day).

If you love living in the past, Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day is there for all your nostalgic needs.

Then there are holidays that promote general health and well-being. That’s where the Great American Smokeout comes in. No, it’s not a holiday to celebrate your BBQ grilling skills — it’s the middle of November for crying out loud.

The Great American Smokeout is all about celebrating the act of quitting smoking. Though we all know how smoking affects our health, it remains to be an incredibly profitable industry.

Nevertheless, the Great American Smokeout is a holiday worth celebrating for all the right reasons. Here are some ways you or a friend can quit smoking and start walking down the path of a healthy lifestyle.

History of the Great America Smokeout

Annual Great American Smokeout events began in the 1970s, according to the American Cancer Society.

The holiday started at an event in Randolph, Massachusetts, where founder Arthur P. Mullaney told attendees to give up cigarettes for a single day and donate that money to a high school scholarship fund.

The first official Great American Smokeout began on November 18, 1976, when the California Division of the American Cancer Society got nearly 1 million people to quit smoking for the day. It became a nationwide holiday the following year.

The holiday’s impact has been felt ever since. From 1965 to 2016, the smoking population in the U.S. went from 42% to 15.5%. Though we wouldn’t exactly attribute the entirety of this change to the American Cancer Society, one cannot deny its role in it.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for 29% of all cancer deaths, far and away the leading cause of cancer deaths. Fortunately, the Great American Smokeout has done wonders for cancer awareness and how to do away with one’s smoking habit.

The Effects of Smoking

Since the Great American Smokeout highlights the negative effects of smoking, it’s fitting to shed light on what those little cancer sticks are capable of.

Smokers are 30 to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, according to the CDC. Smokers who already have type 2 diabetes also face another health obstacle:

Nicotine changes a person’s cells, which renders insulin ineffective in helping regulate blood sugar.

Per the CDC, smoking harms nearly every organ of the human body. It exponentially increases your risk of developing several severe health diseases:

  • Coronary heart disease - 2 to 4 times
  • Stroke - 2 to 4 times
  • Lung cancer in men - 25 times more likely
  • Lung cancer in women - 25.7 times more likely

With health problems come healthcare costs. Even the best healthcare plans will have you pay large copays to help treat the effects of smoking.

In short, not only does smoking do irreparable damage to your body, but it also puts a dent in your wallet.

How You Can Stop Smoking

Another interesting fact from the CDC is that many adult cigarette smokers want to quit smoking. They no longer enjoy huffing and puffing away — they’re just feeding an addiction.

If you are a cigarette smoker, chances are you’ve been wanting to quit and have been wanting to do so for a while. Just like any habit or addiction, it’s hard to stray away from the routine, no matter how harmful it is.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of resources out there to help you wean yourself off smoking.

The CDC has a “How to Quit Smoking” page full of videos, articles, and infographics to help you on your cessation journey.

1. Quitlines

Quitlines are especially helpful. They are phone based-lines that you can call to get more personalized advice on how to quit smoking. Contacting a quitline is free and confidential.

They are also very convenient for people in more rural areas, helping you overcome “some of the barriers to seeking tobacco treatment, such as transportation, child care, financial or geographical barriers.”

Quitlines are also known to increase the odds of 6-month abstinence from smoking by 60%, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

2. Take Medication

There are a variety of quit-smoking medicines to help curb smoking addiction. These medicines come in multiple forms, from patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nasal sprays, and oral pills.

Talk to your doctor about which quit-smoking medicine is best for you. Then go to your nearest independent pharmacy to purchase that medication. Chances are they are available over the counter.

Though products like nicotine patches or Nicorette are on the pricier side, they pale in comparison to the potential healthcare costs if you don’t quit.

How You Can Help Others

Odds are you have a friend or family member who smokes cigarettes. Based on one of the stats we mentioned, they likely don’t even enjoy smoking and are trying to break the cycle.

It’s always good to lend a helping hand, especially if it helps someone overcome a dangerous addiction.

An article by the American Cancer Society reminds us that it is the person trying to quit who is in charge.

It can be tempting to backseat drive their cessation but even good intentions can be misguided. Let them take the wheel but make sure they stay the course.

Make it known that you’re there for them. Sucking on hard candy, chewing on straws, and eating fresh vegetables are known to help people through withdrawals. Have some at your disposal to help them out.

As with other instances of withdrawal, don’t take bouts of anger or frustration personally. Their body’s chemistry is literally changing moment by moment — bouts of irritation or agitation are inevitable.

Like a truly good friend, be fair but firm if they relapse. Be encouraging and supportive, reminding them of all the progress they’ve already made.

You’re bound to slip up every once in a while when climbing a mountain, and that’s what quitting smoking can feel like.


Whether you or a loved one, quitting smoking is a difficult journey. However, as we established, the road to cessation is a clearer and healthier one than if you continued smoking.

The Great American Smokeout commemorates those who got over the hump of withdrawal as well as those wanting to make a great change in their lives.

Visit the American Cancer Society website for more information on how to wean off smoking and how you can celebrate this year’s Great American Smokeout.