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The Great American Smokeout - Thursday, November 20, 2008

November 19, 2008 -- November 20th marks the annual celebration of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout®. The Great American Smokeout traditionally takes place on the third Thursday in November when smokers are encouraged to participate by smoking less or quitting for the benefit of improved health. The concept is simple and dates back to the early 1970s in Minnesota when the first smokeout was called "D Day," or Don't Smoke Day. The idea caught on from state to state before going nationwide under the sponsorship of the American Cancer Society in 1977. Each year during the Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society promotes local and nationwide activities that focus in a lighthearted way on the benefits of not smoking. To the tobacco industry, however, there is nothing lighthearted about a campaign that draws attention to the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking.

The Tobacco Industry's Response

Since the first smokeout, the tobacco industry sought ways to counter the impact that the smokeout campaign could have on its consumer base and profits. In response to the first 1977 American Cancer Smokeout, Anne Browder with the Tobacco Institute, the public relations arm of the tobacco industry, countered by attacking the American Cancer Society's judgment in supporting the smokeout "gimmickry" and called it the "GREAT AMERICAN COP-OUT." The industry, year after year, sought ways to counter the impact of the smokeouts on the social acceptance of a deadly addiction. Perhaps one of the most creative counter-smokeout strategies can be credited to Philip Morris--today the largest tobacco company in the U.S. with half of the U.S. cigarette market's retail share. In 1986, Philip Morris countered with The Great American Smoker campaign. This campaign can be fondly remembered by The Great American Smoker's Kit, with no shortage of American stars and stripes, which included the Great American Smokescreen with suggestions for catchy "comebacks" to the smokeout campaign, including: "Smoking is the leading cause of statistics" and "There are two reasons why some people don't mind their own business. One is they don't have any mind. The other is they don't have any business." Other promotional materials to be remembered are The Great American Smoker's Bill of Rights and The Great American Smoker's Manual.

Quitting Improves Your Health Immediately

It is no secret that smoking is linked as a direct cause for lung cancer. Quitting smoking is the first step to improving your health--with benefits starting as quickly as 20 minutes after putting out your last cigarette. There are many products on the market to aid in achieving your goal of smoking cessation, but having social support in family, friends or fellow quitters is important in helping prior smokers stay smoke free. For more information on quitting smoking and reducing your cancer risk, visit the American Cancer Society's Great American Health Challenge.

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