Great American SmokeoutŒ¬ Underscores Need to Continue Fight Against Tobacco

November 15, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- November 15, 2007 -- Today marks the 31st anniversary of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout®. For more than three decades, the third Thursday in November has marked a day for highlighting the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of quitting smoking to improve individual health and promote better, safer communities.

In recent years the Society and its sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), have also used the event to educate Americans about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the importance of tobacco control legislation in protecting the health of smokers and nonsmokers. Comprehensive tobacco control policies have been proven to help reduce tobacco use.

With more than half of the United States now protected by smoke-free laws, and a variety of cessation resources available, there has never been a better time to quit smoking. Yet, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the decline in adult smoking rates has stalled for the second consecutive year, evidence that much work remains in the fight against tobacco.

"With tobacco use remaining the leading preventable cause of death, and smoking rates continuing to stall, we need to remain steadfast in our efforts to alleviate tobacco's toll on our communities," said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board. "The Great American Smokeout presents an unparalleled opportunity for Americans to unite with lawmakers in the fight against tobacco and pass strong legislation that helps save lives."

At the federal level, ACS CAN is working with lawmakers to pass two measures that would help reduce tobacco use. The "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" (S.625/H.R. 1108), would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate both current and future tobacco products and restrict tobacco product marketing, especially to children. FDA regulation of tobacco products and marketing would significantly reduce the number of people who start to use tobacco, increase the number of people who quit using tobacco and save countless lives. ACS CAN urges lawmakers to pass this critical legislation and protect the health of all Americans, particularly children.

Another federal bill would increase the federal excise tax on cigarettes. Both the House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through a 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax. Increasing the federal cigarette tax would reduce the number of children starting to smoke, increase the number of adults who quit smoking, reduce death and disease from tobacco use and reduce health care costs associated with tobacco use. Despite a presidential veto earlier this month, ACS CAN is urging lawmakers to continue to fight for the passage of this crucial health care legislation.

"Congress has a golden opportunity to help encourage adult smokers to quit and prevent a whole generation of kids from ever starting to smoke," said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN. "Now, more than ever, Congress must move forward with legislation to raise the federal tobacco tax and give the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products and marketing practices." 

At the state level, ACS CAN continues to work in partnership with the Society to pass strong smoke-free laws, as well as increase state excise taxes on cigarettes. The smoke-free trend has markedly accelerated in recent years. In 2002, just two states had passed smoke-free laws. Now, a mere five years later, 25 states and the District of Columbia are smoke-free and another three states Illinois, Maryland and Oregon are scheduled to follow suit within the next year and a half.
Moreover, the prestigious Institute of Medicine and the President's Cancer Panel released reports earlier this year recommending the continued passage of smoke-free laws at the local and state levels. The reports build upon a number of studies on the benefits of smoke-free communities, including the U.S. Surgeon General's 2006 report, which concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and confirmed that smoke-free policies do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry.

Excise taxes are equally important to state tobacco control efforts. Higher tobacco taxes promote quitting, prevent relapses, reduce tobacco consumption and prevent Americans from acquiring this deadly habit. While benefiting public health, tobacco excise taxes can produce substantial revenues for local, state and federal governments, which can be used to fund state tobacco control programs, as well as a multitude of other health initiatives.

More and more states are recognizing the value of increased tobacco taxes to both public health and state revenue. Since 2002, 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have raised their cigarette tax rates in 74 separate increases. In 2008, new increases will take effect in seven states Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Wisconsin.  In addition, Hawaii and Vermont will phase in previously passed tax increases.  More information on ACS CAN's tobacco advocacy efforts can be found at

The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout event grew out of a 1971 event in Randolph, Mass. in which Arthur P. Maloney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund. In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state's first D-Day, or Don't Smoke Day. The idea caught on, and on November 18, 1976, the American Cancer Society's California Division succeeded in getting smokers to quit for the day. That California event marked the first Great American Smokeout, which went nationwide the following year.

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

Trista Hargrove
Phone: (202) 585-3221
Email: [email protected]

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