New Yorkers Urged to Participate In the Great American Smokeout

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 17, 2016) – With tobacco use still the leading preventable cause of disease and death, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is encouraging all cigarette smokers to participate in today's 41st annual Great American Smokeout sponsored by the American Cancer Society (ACS). This year's theme is "When Trying to Quit Smoking, Support Can Make All the Difference."

The event occurs every year on the third Thursday of November and encourages smokers across the nation to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance to quit on the day of the Smokeout. The Great American Smokeout challenges people to stop using tobacco, provides information and tools on how to quit, and calls attention to the ongoing problems caused by cigarette smoking.

"Tobacco use continues to be a serious health threat, not only for people who smoke but for the people around them," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "Approximately 70% of smokers report that they want to quit smoking. Smoking is an addiction and quitting is not easy. I encourage New Yorkers who want to quit smoking or know someone who wants to quit to use the Great American Smokeout as an opportunity to ask for help. Health care providers can support smokers who want to quit through counseling and medications."

NYSDOH has an ongoing commitment to promote tobacco-free initiatives such as smoke-free housing. Through this initiative, exposure to harmful secondhand smoke in multiunit housing is reduced, and people are encouraged to make quit attempts. Community-based organizations receive state funding to work with property managers and building owners throughout New York to adopt policies that prohibit smoking in multiunit dwellings. These policies increase the number of residents who are protected from secondhand smoke exposure.

Smokers say they often find it more difficult to quit when surrounded by others who smoke. Multiunit buildings that adopt smoke-free policies provide cessation information, referrals to residents, and some offer onsite smoking cessation programs. This successful program has protected nearly 10,000 families from secondhand smoke exposure this year alone.

Although tobacco use is at record lows in New York State, approximately 2.2 million New Yorkers continue to smoke cigarettes. Every year in New York, smoking kills 28,200 people.

According to the ACS, the idea for the Great American Smokeout grew out of an event in 1970 in Randolph, Massachusetts. Arthur P. Mullaney, a guidance counselor, asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they saved to a scholarship fund. In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, led the first Don't Smoke Day.

On November 18, 1976, the California division of the ACS launched the first Smokeout when they convinced nearly a million smokers to quit for the day. The following year, they took the event nationwide. Since then, the Smokeout has become an annual event that calls attention to the societal impact of tobacco use and the need for public health policies that reduce its effect.

For help with quitting, including counseling and medication, talk to your healthcare provider. For information on how to quit smoking, contact the New York State Smokers' Quitline toll-free at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit for information and services.