The Great American Smokeout Challenge on Nov. 19th: Quit smoking for 24 hours

Anne Mitchell Health Guide
  • The Great American Smokeout was started by the American Cancer Society in 1977. It is held on the third Thursday in November each year. This year, the big day falls on November 19th.

    The challenge is for smokers to quit for 24 hours. The hope is that if you can make it without a cigarette for 24 hours, then maybe you can make it for another 24 hours. If you do it yet again, eventually you will find that you have quit smoking for good.

    Recently, I started a new job and near me sits a woman who has a bad cold. She sounds as if she is coughing up a lung each time she goes into one of her coughing fits. She also is regularly seen hanging out in the smoking area having her nicotine fix.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    I just want to go over to her and ask her if she wants to quit smoking and if she needs some support. But I suspect she won’t be ready. She seems to be in denial when people ask her if she’s okay. She blames it on her cold and says she’ll be fine.

    She sure doesn’t sound fine and I doubt if she’s fooling herself. I know she isn’t fooling the rest of us. She sounds as if she may already have COPD and just doesn’t know it yet. I wonder what her doctor tells her or if she has children and if they are concerned.

    I can really empathize with this woman – that was me not that many years ago. I would cough and hack and wheeze after climbing stairs. I would go out into the rain and snow and freezing temperatures to have my cigarette fix. I would tell myself almost every day that I really needed to quit, but I would always light up again.

    When I had a cold, I knew I couldn’t blame my coughs on just that, no matter how bad my cold was. I knew the cigarettes were making me old before my time and slowly robbing me of my breath and my life. But I struggled for a long time to quit - I just couldn’t seem to make it stick.

    I would watch all these holidays and life events pass me by -- all the ones I targeted as the “big day” when I would finally quit smoking. There were large events like my wedding day, our daughter’s birth, a new job, or a new car. And there were annual events like birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Each time I would tell myself that this would be the time I would finally quit smoking.

    The Great American Smokeout was one of those events that I always greeted with excitement and trepidation. I liked the idea of quitting smoking at the same time as lots of other people. We would all be experiencing withdrawal together and enjoying a collective sense of accomplishment. But I also dreaded the pressure I would put upon myself to succeed. Could I really do it this time or would I relapse yet again?

    Well, it turns out that whether we succeed or not is not nearly as important as trying. In trying, we are committing ourselves to a healthier life. Each time we make that commitment, we get a little closer to success. One day, we will find we are finally ready to stop relapsing. We will find that we have hit bottom and we are ready to not have to go there ever again.

  • Just think, if you quit smoking now, then this winter you won’t have to go outside into the freezing cold to feed that insidious monster. Instead, you can start healing your lungs and reclaiming your body. You can go into the holidays a free person and look back at 2009 as the year you finally quit smoking. When spring arrives in 2010, you will be able to smell the flowers and enjoy the fresh breezes so much more.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    As I listen to my work neighbor suffer from the effects of her smoking, I am filled with gratitude that I no longer live in that trap myself and I hope she is able to free herself one day. I wish you luck on your own journey toward a healthier life. You can do it. Believe me, it’s worth it.


    If you are ready to quit smoking, you will want to plan your quit day. Be prepared with little items like toothpicks or fresh fruit to help you get past your cravings. For more tips, check out Preparing to Quit Smoking.

Published On: November 16, 2009