Great American Smokeout– it’s a great day to be a quitter!

Thursday, November 21, is the 38th Great American Smokeout, when the American Cancer Society continues its legacy of providing free resources to help smokers quit. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death world-wide. Each year, smoking causes almost 6 million deaths worldwide, including more than 600,000 deaths among nonsmokers as a result of secondhand smoke, according to the World Health Organization.[1] No matter how old a person is or how long she or he has smoked, quitting can help everyone live longer and be healthier. By quitting a person can add up to 10 years to their life and setting a quit date, such as on the Great American Smokeout, allows smokers to create a plan for how to handle dealing with withdrawal and staying quit.

The Great American Smokeout was inaugurated in 1976 to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for one day. Now, 46.7 percent of the 46.6 million Americans who smoke have attempted to quit for at least one day in the past year,[2] and the Great American Smokeout remains a great opportunity to encourage people to commit to making a plan to quit for good. Planning a date to quit smoking is a key step smokers can take to live healthier.

It may take many attempts for a smoker to quit, and many smokers try to quit without using several of the proven supports, some of them free, that are available to help them. Based on an analysis of hundreds of studies the US Clinical Practice Guideline (updated in 2008) noted that tobacco dependence treatments work for a “broad range of populations” and urged clinicians to encourage use of treatments and medications with demonstrated efficacy.[3] It also noted that even brief tobacco dependence treatments are effective and should be offered to every patient using tobacco.

In addition to quit-smoking medications such as Chantix, Zyban, and nicotine replacement therapies such as the nicotine patch, there are behavioral treatments with demonstrated efficacy such as individual, group, and telephone counseling. According to the guideline, more sessions of counseling lead to higher 6-month abstinence success rates, and two features of counseling should be present: Practical counseling (problem solving/skills training), and providing intra-treatment social support.

In the U.S. any smoker can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to be connected to a quitline counselor who can offer support over several calls. Smokers wanting to quit can also enroll in internet-based programs, which have been shown in scientific studies to help quitting,4 or access websites that provide quitting advice before, on, and after they choose a quit date (e.g., http://www.cancer.org/healthy/, http://www.becomeanex.org/, http://smokefree.gov/, http://www.quitnet.com/). Some of these offer a platform for smokers to connect with others trying to quit, and evidence suggests that many smokers are helped by the emotional and practical support that friends and former smokers can provide this way.

Recently, there has been a proliferation of quit smoking applications (apps) available on the iPhone and Android smartphone platforms that attempt to provide support for quitting. Some of these include supportive daily text messages with advice or encouragement. Most have yet to incorporate all of the clinical practice guidelines for quitting, however,[5] and none have yet been formally evaluated for efficacy. Nevertheless, some smokers may find these helpful. For example, the ACS Quit for Life app includes features to help a smoker build a quit plan, strategies for dealing with urges, and information about quitting medications.

Also imperative in the effort to encourage people to quit smoking are smoke-free laws and higher tobacco taxes which make it harder for people to smoke, and protect nonsmokers from tobacco smoke. The majority of U.S. communities are now covered by smoke-free laws, and smokers nationwide now face an average retail price of $6.03 for one pack of cigarettes.[6]

For 100 years, the American Cancer Society has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with millions of our supporters worldwide, we’re helping people stay well, helping people get well, finding cures, and fighting back against cancer.  For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.


  1. World Health Organization.  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/. Accessed November 11, 2013.
  2. American Lung Association.  http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/general-smoking-facts.html. Accessed November 11, 2013.
  3. Fiore MC, Jaen, C. R., Baker, T. B. et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service; 2008.
  4. Myung SK, McDonnell DD, Kazinets G, Seo HG, Moskowitz JM. Effects of Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(10):929-937.
  5. Abroms L, Westmaas JL, Bontemps-Jones J, Ramani R, Mellerson J. A Content Analysis of Popular Smartphone Apps for Smoking Cessation. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013;in press.
  6. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.  http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0202.pdf. Accessed November 11, 2013.