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Great American Smokeout


"Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times."- Mark Twain

Quitting smoking is actually one of the most difficult things that many will ever do, and even the most motivated smokers may attempt to quit 5 or 6 times before they are finally successful.

Each year, the third Thursday in November is the Great American Smokeout, a day initiated by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to quit for a day in the hopes that they may decide to quit for a lifetime. Four decades after the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General Report on the health consequences of smoking, smoking still remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease. Each year, approximately 440,000 Americans die of smoking-related illnesses and an estimated 50,000 non-smokers die of illnesses related to secondhand smoke.

How to quit for good

Over 3 million Americans are successful in quitting each year. At any given time, 70% of all smokers say that they want to quit. And now more than ever, there are numerous effective treatment options to help support any tobacco user in his or her attempt to quit using tobacco for good. These treatment options include brief counseling by a health care provider, nicotine replacement therapy or other smoking cessation medications, smoking cessation specialty clinic services, free state-based telephone counseling quit lines, and online services.

Because Veterans in care in our health care system are much more likely to smoke and much more likely to have smoking-related illnesses, tobacco use cessation is a public health priority for VA. Please remember that quitting smoking is one of the hardest things your patients (or co-workers) may ever have to do, please let them know that they don’t have to do it alone. We encourage you to observe the Great American Smokeout at your facility. Use the day to raise awareness about smoking cessation and the full range of services available in the VA health care system.

Make the Smokeout a success

To help make the observance of the Great American Smokeout a success, please use the many resources, links, and materials available throughout this website. We encourage you to develop creative ideas for using these and other materials at your facility, and please email Dr. Kim Hamlett-Berry at and share your ideas with us. Note: Emails sent to this address are not secure. Please do not include personal data. To send a secure e-mail, use VA's Ask a Question - IRIS (a secure website contracted to VA). Scroll down to the middle of the right-hand side of the page to find "Ask a Question."

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use the day to ask every patient who smokes that you see, “Do you want help with quitting smoking today?”
  • Order the VA Smoking Cessation Pocket Guide, Helping Smokers Quit: A Guide for Clinicians (172 KB, PDF), through your Forms and Publication Officer. The IB number is 10-96 and the P number is P96189. Please distribute these pocket guides on how to provide brief smoking cessation counseling to health care providers and trainees at your site.
  • Post a flyer that promotes your smoking cessation clinic or 1-800-Quit-Now, the national number for free, state telephone counseling quit lines, at all of your outdoor smoking shelters.
  • Organize Smokeout activities for your employees, and make them aware that they may be able to get coverage for smoking cessation counseling and medications through their insurer. Also, let them know about 1-800-Quit-Now and the availability of low cost nicotine gum through VA canteens.
  • Organize a Grand Rounds or lunch time seminar on effective smoking cessation treatment.
  • Order full-color smoking cessation posters that are available in the VHA Publications Depot. You can order these through your Publications and Forms Officer or download the posters below.
    Thumbnail of The Time Is Now poster  Thumbnail of poster in Spanish, Llego La 

    The Time Is Now (1 MB, PDF)
    11" x 17"
    Poster 10-397, P96574

    In Spanish: Llegó La Hora (1 MB, PDF)
    11" x 17"
    Poster 10-398, P96575

Help someone commit to a “smoke-free” day on the Great American Smokeout. Please use the Great American Smokeout to raise awareness about the many advances in smoking cessation treatment that are now available to help someone quit for not just a day but for good.

Additional resources

Additional resources on smoking and tobacco use cessation can be found in Provider Resources.

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