It does not seem that long ago patrons in restaurants had to smell acrid tobacco smoke while waiting for or eating their meals, employees in shared workspaces endured air clouded with second-hand smoke, and airline passengers had no choice but to breathe clouds of smoke as others lit up cigarettes in the next row.
This casual acceptance of smoking was typical when the American Cancer Society‘s Great American Smokeout went nationwide more than 25 years ago in November 1977. That quarter century has marked dramatic changes in the way society views tobacco promotion and tobacco use. Many public places and work areas are now smoke-free which protects non-smokers and supports smokers who want to quit.
The Great American Smokeout helped to spotlight the dangers of tobacco use and the challenges of quitting, but more importantly it has set the stage for the cultural revolution in tobacco control that has occurred.
Due to the efforts of the American Cancer Society, individuals, healthcare providers and other groups that have led anti-tobacco efforts, there have been significant landmarks in the areas of research, policy, and the environment.
The American Cancer Association estimates 46 million adults in the United States currently smoke, and approximately half will die prematurely from smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women and more than 80 percent of lung cancers are thought to result from smoking. Smoking causes nearly one in five deaths from all causes.