The Great American Smokeout is set for Thursday, an event designed to help the more than 34 million Americans who smoke to end the addictive habit.
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The event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The organization said smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world, causing an estimated 480,000 deaths every year.
More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease, even though cigarette smoking rates have dropped from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2017.
For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November.
According to the organization, the idea grew from a 1970 event in Randolph, Massachusetts where Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund.
In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day.
The idea caught on, and Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society got nearly 1 million people who smoke to quit for the day.
That California event was the first official Smokeout, and the American Cancer Society took it nationwide in 1977.
Many public places and work areas are now smoke-free – protecting nonsmokers and supporting people who smoke but want to quit.