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The Great American Smokeout

by Andrew Purvis

Every year more Americans quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout® than any other day - even New Year's Day resolutions help fewer people quit. The success of this special day, held annually on the third Thursday in November (the 16th this year), is a testament to the education and marketing efforts of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

So you may be asking yourself, "What is this Great American Smokeout® thing all about and how does it work?" A very good question with a fairly simple answer: the Smokeout is a day during which smokers all across America are encouraged to give up tobacco for a day. The hope is that many of those who do will quit permanently. High schools and colleges, as well as some work places, sponsor events to help students and employees quit.

So who came up with this great idea and how did it become a national event? A man named Arthur P. Mullaney came up with the idea in 1971. He asked people in his city to quit smoking for a day and donate the savings (the cost of cigarettes they didn't smoke) to a high school scholarship fund. By the mid-1970s Mullaney's idea had spread across the country, but it wasn't yet the Smokeout as we know it today.

In 1977, the ACS made the Smokeout a national event, and it has grown ever since then. Scheduled one week before Thanksgiving, it gives people a chance to quit before the holiday season gets started and smokers feel so much stress (and eat so much food) that quitting becomes even more difficult.

The Smokeout Today

You will probably come into contact with Great American Smokeout® on your campus. Many U.S. colleges and universities have student health organizations that promote events such as the Smokeout. These may take the form of places where smokers could destroy their cigarettes or throw away their pipe or smokeless tobacco, printed sponsorship forms to encourage non-smokers to help friends who smoke, and educational forums.

This year the ACS has named its campaign "Commit to Quit." The program is a three-step process that involves having the smoker answer these three questions:

  • Why do I want to quit?
  • What method will I use to quite smoking?
  • How do I stay smoke-free?
If you are a smoker, or if you have a friend who smokes, you may want to print out this "Commit to Quit" contract

We at iStudentCity encourage every iStudentCitizen who smokes to read the information on the ACS web site and to make an effort to quit during the Great American Smokeout®, if only for one day.


iStudentCity gratefully acknowledges the American Cancer Society for the information and the assistance that they provided as we prepared this article. We appreciate their efforts and we salute them for the progress that they have already made in the fight against cancer. We wish them even more and greater successes in the coming years.


Andrew Purvis is an M.A. student in literature at Claremont Graduate University. He has spent a total of five years tutoring English and teaching public speaking. In 1994 he started teaching himself web design. Now he brings this all together as the editor for iStudentCity.


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