The greatest step forward, the greatest gift to ourselves – or for a loved one, for an organization, a workplace or even a circle of friends – the greatest service we can do is to stop smoking cigarettes.

Hands down, smoking is still the No. 1 cause of premature death in the United States. It is the largest single cause of preventable disease. Smoking damages nearly every organ of the body. It is the most ferocious, merciless threat we face. No type of warfare, no terrorist threat has taken so many lives.

And it is an addiction, which means that stopping is not easy.

No Day Like Today

Like quitting itself, the Great American Smokeout began with a single day. In 1970, the residents of Randolph, Massachusetts, were challenged to put down their cigarettes for one day and donate the money saved to a local high school. In 1974, a Don’t Smoke Day was promoted in Monticello, Minnesota. And in 1976, the California division of the American Cancer Society promoted the first Smokeout, prompting nearly one million smokers there to quit for a day.

What have we accomplished in nearly 50 years of this attention and awareness? Well, last year an actor friend of ours saw a play revived on Broadway in which he had appeared originally decades ago. The play is set at a party in the late 1960s. Of the performances in the play’s revival, our actor friend observed, “Nobody knows how to smoke anymore.” The Great American Smokeout has been part of that remarkable evolution.

Still, there is a long way to go. The rate of smoking varies a great deal by state in the U.S., and examining the data, it is sadly ironic that the places that are still most afflicted with smoking are often the places that can least afford it; disadvantaged in other ways, too, economically and socially. So, the awareness that the Smokeout promotes is still much-needed.

When People Succeed

Successful quitters say that the extra oxygen they’re getting feels like exhilaration. It takes time to get used to the lighter head that comes with breathing easier and more efficiently. The effects of that oxygen on skin, teeth, and hair actually make people look better. People honestly notice that they have more time, too. The rituals of smoking are so automatic that we don’t realize how much time and attention our addiction is stealing from us.

Perhaps biggest of all, the feeling of freedom that comes from being an ex-smoker is big and broad. When you beat this, you feel like you could accomplish anything. And you know you’ve done the single biggest thing you can do for your health and well-being.

It Was a Horror Show

The scourge of smoking through human history is so dark that it is hard to fully account for it. If you read it in a novel, it would be hard to believe. In some dystopian world, human beings struck fire to dried leaves and inhaled through tubes of paper. They kept doing this year after year, generation after generation, despite well-known evidence that it kills people. They continued even when death warnings were printed on the package, and even when relatives and loved ones died indisputably from the practice. Eerie and frightening, but true, as we all know.

It Takes Help to Quit

Because smoking is an addiction, quitting is a kind of recovery. So, although there are “cold turkey” examples among the acquaintances of many of us, just stopping is not the norm. Smoking cessation for most people takes effort, resources, and a bit of outside help.

Research confirms it. Studies published by the American Cancer Society show that the people most likely to succeed in quitting cigarettes use two or more of these assists to get the upper hand:

  • Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
  • Stop-smoking groups
  • Online quit groups
  • Counseling
  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
  • Guide books
  • Encouragement and support from friends and family members

Many people succeed after more than one attempt to quit, so it is important to keep trying. Judging ourselves harshly, or accepting “failure,” can lead down the road of disease and death. If you’ve tried before, then let The Great American Smokeout be your reminder to try again.

Studies show that the people most likely to succeed in quitting cigarettes use some form of program or medical supervision to help We’d be happy to become the source of that help for you. Just call us at 843-815-6468 to get started.