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A Brief Overview of the Great American Smokeout and its National Effects

By Rick Valente, Former World-Class Bodybuilder

As an individual who has dedicated his life to health and fitness, as well as encouraging these pursuits in others, I am an adamant supporter of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Great American Smokeout, a social wellness experiment that began in 1977 and has prompted millions of smokers to give up the habit over the years. November 17, 2011 marked the 35th Annual Great American Smokeout, an event that grows in participants and importance each year.

Held every third Thursday of November, the Great American Smokeout challenges smokers to give up cigarettes or other tobacco products for 24 hours in the hopes of encouraging them to quit and providing them with the confidence and support to continue abstaining from the habit. The first Smokeout developed from an idea established and organized by the ACS’s California division, which prompted nearly a million Californians to quit smoking for a day in 1976. The following year, the Great American Smokeout became a nationwide event, and it has since been celebrated and/or promoted with parades, rallies, resources for quitters, and advertising campaigns.

The Great American Smokeout and events similar to it have encouraged the emergence of anti-tobacco efforts and regulations across the United States and at all levels of government. This revolution started off locally, with the passage of public and workplace smoking restrictions in Berkeley and San Francisco, California, during the 1970s and 1980s, before reaching the national level in the form of Department of Justice lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers and the establishment of federal regulations regarding areas of the industry. Today some 45 million Americans still smoke; however, smoking cessation rates among the nation’s adults have increased slightly since the 1990s.

About the Author: A celebrated bodybuilder of the 1980s and 1990s, Rick Valente has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than three decades in various capacities, including as an ESPN television host, model, personal trainer, and nutrition coach.

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