Join the Great American Smokeout

Whether you're just thinking about kicking the habit or ready to choose a quit date, there's no better time than now to join the Smokeout.

In 1971, a high school guidance counselor in Massachusetts asked people to quit smoking for one day. He also asked them to donate the money they saved on cigarettes that day to a local college scholarship fund. In time, that small-town event grew into what is now known as the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. The nationwide event is held the third Thursday every November.

An estimated 443,000 people die each year from smoking. About 38,000 of those who die are nonsmokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke. If you smoke and have been trying to quit, why not join the Smokeout? It has become one of the most successful one-day quit programs in the country. More people quit on this day than any other time of the year - including New Year's Day. You could be one of them.

Cigarettes are highly addictive, both mentally and physically. They can serve as a major gateway to drug addiction. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, children who smoke cigarettes are eight times more likely to use illegal drugs and abuse alcohol than those who don't smoke. And most adult smokers started before they were 18. In fact, research shows that teens can become addicted to nicotine more quickly than adults.

Tips for kicking the habit

The American Cancer Society offers Quitline for those who are trying to stop smoking. The number is 800-227-2345. Using Quitline can more than double your chances of quitting successfully. Counselors at Quitline can connect you with smoking cessation programs in your community as well as support groups and Internet resources.

Here are some more tips if you're ready to quit:

  • Set a date for quitting. Take one day at a time, and set short-term goals.
  • Tell your family and friends about your plans. You will need their encouragement when you feel the urge to light up. Having social support is one of the keys to quitting successfully.
  • To avoid temptation, get rid of all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a medication or nicotine replacement therapy as an alternative to quitting "cold turkey."
  • When you first try to quit, change your routine. If you usually light up during your morning coffee, then eat breakfast in a different place or drink tea instead of coffee.
  • When you quit and still get the urge to smoke, talk with someone, go for a walk, drink water or get busy with a task. Reduce your stress by taking a hot bath, exercising or reading a book.
  • Lastly, take advantage of the Great American Smokeout. You'll be surprised at how quickly your body starts to recover when you don't smoke. For instance, 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure will go down toward your baseline level and your heart rate will become slower. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide levels in your lungs will return to normal. And that's just in the first day!

Even if you're not ready to quit just yet, joining the Great American Smokeout will teach you that you can go a day without cigarettes. And maybe even a lifetime.



© UnitedHealthcare