Updated: Nov 12, 2021
This year the Great American Smokeout is Thursday November 18th. More than 40 years ago, the American Cancer Society in California was inspired by Arthur P. Mullaney’s Massachusetts high school scholarship fundraiser and hosted its first Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. Nearly 1 million people stopped smoking that day. It was offered as an opportunity to test drive smoke-free living by practicing a smoke-free day or “mini quit.”
These mini quits are terrific practice vehicles for people who wish to stop smoking or vaping. This is because a person’s quit success has less to do with willpower and much more to do with PRACTICE. Learning to deprogram years of using a cigarette to manage distress, boredom, and other challenging emotions doesn’t happen overnight. Adopting smoke-free living habits involves a sustained amount of courageous repetition, reprogramming, and acceptance of slips and stumbles as part of the learning curve.
The Great American Smokeout gives all of us — individuals, communities, and health care providers — a collective smoke-free practice day. The event asks people to stop smoking, reinforces the importance of cumulative effort, and reminds people about the various tools available to help them quit for a day or for good. People are challenged to stop smoking for 24 hours, with the hope that their commitment not to smoke will continue longer than a day, hopefully for a lifetime.
About 34 million or 13% of American adults still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco smoking remains the greatest preventable cause of illness and death in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 or 1 in 5 deaths each year. Despite a steady decline in cigarette smoking rates over the past decades, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2019, these wins haven’t benefited everyone. We know certain disadvantaged groups who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives (lower socioeconomic status, educational barriers, Indigenous and African Americans, LGBTQ communities, military, and those who struggle with mental health) have higher smoking rates and endure disproportionate targeted tobacco marketing, smoking-related cancers, and other diseases. Vincere Health has demonstrated that financial incentives improve smoking cessation, including in vulnerable populations. They are learning that combining calls with texting doubles quit rates, and that effective cessation efforts must address communication preference and flexibility, in addition to inclusion and lifestyle factors, social determinants of health, and priority population outreach with a whole person treatment approach.
These past two pandemic years have many people feeling stressed, isolated, or worried about their health. It’s a lot to deal with. It also reminds us just how precious our health is, especially our lung health. Quitting smoking improves physical and financial health near term and long term, no matter your age or how long you’ve been smoking. Better cardiac health, immune function, breathing, and oral, dental, skin, and reproductive health are some of the many benefits of quitting. Plus, smoke-free living improves energy, confidence, personal agency, and purpose.
As we prepare to gather with family and friends on Thursday November 25th, the preceding Thursday seems a fitting time to put down that cigarette and practice a healthier day. And imagine how you might feel if one of the blessings you’ll be counting on Thanksgiving is your first smoke-free week!
Giving up smoking is a one-day-at-a-time journey, and it can be hard. Cigarettes have, in many ways, become the punctuation in the sentence that runs through each day. Letting go of that constant companion and adopting new healthier coping tools can feel daunting. But, you can increase your chances of success with a dedicated coach, personalized plan, innovative monitoring, accountability tracking, and community support.
At Vincere Health, we’ve got you covered! No matter how busy you are, our habit change program sits in your pocket while we walk alongside you to a better life. Visit https://www.vincere.health/ and get healthier!