The 43rd annual Great American Smokeout® on Thursday, November 15, 2018 takes on a new theme: "Day 1," according to the American Cancer Society (ACS) - one that reflects an evolution from quitting for the day to the recognition that successful cessation takes time and planning. Smokers are encouraged to use the day to map out a plan for a smoke-free life.

Since 1976, the ACS has hosted this public awareness event intended to encourage people to quit smoking. It is celebrated on the third Thursday of November. Organizations across the country use the event to encourage smokers to take action to quit smoking.

Why quit?

Smoking accounts for nearly one in three cancer deaths in the United States, and increases the risk cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), kidney, cervix, liver, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and colon/rectum, as well as for myeloid leukemia.

Smoking not only causes cancer, it damages nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes, and bones. About 1 out of 5 (480,000) deaths in the United States is due to smoking.

Certain demographic groups have higher rates

While the smoking rate has dropped significantly, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2017, the gains have been inconsistent. Some groups of Americans suffer disproportionately more from smoking-related cancer and other diseases, including those who have less education, who live below the poverty level, or who suffer from serious psychological distress, as well as certain racial and ethnic groups, and lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Start with a plan

Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult. Experts say the best approach is to start with a plan and seek support. Quitting often takes multiple attempts. Smokers are strongly advised to use proven cessation methods, such as nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs, such as patches, gum, lozenges, etc.) or prescription medications and counseling, or a combination of all, to quit smoking. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get their advice. Support is also important. Stop-smoking programs, telephone quit lines, the American Cancer Society's Freshstart program, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and smoking counselors or coaches can be a great help.

"The American Cancer Society supports any smoker who is considering quitting, no matter what approach they use," said Cliff Douglas, JD, ACS vice president of tobacco control. "The ACS recommends patients work with their clinician and use FDA-approved cessation aids that have been proven to help, but also that clinicians support all attempts to quit the use of combustible tobacco for those smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit using FDA approved aids."