Join the Great American Smokeout

In spite of progress in the fight against lung cancer, tobacco continues to kill.

On Nov. 16, the American Cancer Society will be celebrating its 30th annual Great American Smokeout. For smokers, this is the perfect opportunity to take the plunge and make a plan to quit.

In addition to encouraging smokers to quit, the GASO is also about protecting all Americans from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a health hazard that causes lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. Each year, secondhand smoke kills 3,000 nonsmokers from lung cancer and another 35,000 to 45,000 from heart disease. The U.S. Surgeon General reported in June that there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Consider the social environment 30 years ago: Smoking was legal in public buildings and enclosed places such as offices and movie theaters and on domestic airline flights. Tobacco companies offered free cigarette samples and sponsored popular TV and radio shows.

But today, a growing number of states and communities have passed smoke-free workplace laws. More than 2,200 communities and 17 states are now smoke-free. Smoking is banned on all domestic U.S. flights. Tampering with smoke detection devices in airplanes is a federal crime. Most states ban distribution of free cigarettes. Nationally, tobacco advertising is banned on broadcast media. Lung cancer incidence and death rates have declined in men and stabilized in women, and per capita cigarette consumption is at its lowest since World War II.

In spite of all the progress, tobacco continues to claim lives, and smoking still remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country and around the world.The American Cancer Society continues its mission rooted in all that we’ve learned in the last 30 years – that offering effective cessation resources to smokers combined with creating a healthy, smoke-free environment is the fastest way to eliminate disease and death from tobacco use.

The 30th anniversary of GASO on November 16, 2006, presents us with an opportunity to showcase how far we’ve come and where we need to go to eliminate deaths from lung cancer. Join us this Thursday on the east end of the Washington Avenue Bridge from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tell us what it would take to get you to quit, or why you have never lit up.

Megan Cooper and Brea Atkinson are University students. Please send comments to [email protected].