Great American Smokeout is celebrated on November 18th of each year. It was established by The American Cancer Society in 1977 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 over this period.
The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout event grew out of a 1971 event in Randolph, MA, in which Arthur P. Mullaney 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 Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society succeeded in getting nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. The first national Great American Smokeout was held in 1977.
The Great American Smokeout has been chaired by some of America’s most popular celebrities, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Edward Asner, Natalie Cole, Larry Hagman, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the first “spokespud” Mr. Potato Head, and many others.