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The Great American Smokeout

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

The Great American Smokeout® takes place in November every year to help smokers quit smoking. By quitting – even for one day – smokers take an important step to be healthier and to lower their risk of getting cancer.

Cancer is a group of diseases that all have to do with cells. Cells are the very small units that make up all living things, including the human body. There are billions of cells in each person's body. Normal body cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die.

Cancer happens when cells that are not normal grow and spread very fast. Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells just continue to grow and divide out of control and do not die when they are supposed to.

Cigarettes were first used in the United States over 200 years ago. By the Civil War (about 40 years later), smoking cigarettes became more popular. During World War I in the early 1900s, Army surgeons thought that cigarettes helped soldiers who were hurt to relax and helped with their pain. Changes in how people thought about making their health better got people to think about not smoking. Mostly they thought smoking made people behave badly or made them unclean, instead of being worried about how smoking made people sick.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, scientists and doctors noticed that people who smoked were getting lung cancer. In 1972 they learned that even the people who are around people who are smoking can get sick with cancer and other diseases from breathing the smoke that comes from the lit end of cigarettes and cigars.

In 1973, our government stopped letting people smoke in public areas, government buildings, on airplanes, and even in the White House! The Army and Navy stopped putting cigarettes in supplies for soldiers. Cigarette companies had to give money for medical care for illnesses caused by smoking. In 1999, U.S. tobacco companies stopped putting messages about cigarettes on billboards, so that "NO SMOKING" messages could be put on the billboards instead.

No one should smoke or use e-cigarettes, but many people still do. Using e-cigarettes (also called vaping) is also bad for your health because, like regular cigarettes, they also have nicotine and chemicals in them that can make people sick.

No matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking, quitting makes your health better. Giving up smoking can be hard, but you can quit with a good plan and support.

To learn about the good things that happen to a person's body after quitting smoking, visit:

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