The third Thursday in November is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. It is an opportunity for people who smoke or use nicotine to commit to a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle. Not just for a day, but as day 1 of the rest of their lives.
About 32.4 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5. And more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.1
While smoking rates in the U.S. have fallen, from 42% in 1965 to 13.7% in 2019, gains have been inconsistent. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates, suffering disproportionately from smoking-related cancer and other diseases. These populations tend to experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska natives, African Americans, LGBTQ communities, those in the military, those with behavioral health conditions and others.2
Lung cancer remains the second most common cancer in both men and women, not counting skin cancer. It is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Overall, a man’s chance of developing lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 17. These numbers include both people who smoke and those who don’t. For people who smoke, of course, the risk is much higher. There will be an estimated 235,760 new lung cancer cases in the U.S. in 2021, with estimated deaths of 131,880. The average 5-year survival rate (all stages combined) is only 20%.3
As an employer, you can give your employees incredible support by promoting participation in the Great American Smokeout. If you set the Great American Smokeout up as a Go365 Employer-Sponsored Event, participating members can earn Points. Even sharing tips to help quit smoking gives encouragement that might push someone to quit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average person tries to quit between 8 and 11 times before succeeding. The Great American Smokeout may be the event they need to become successful. And quitting may be more important than ever this year as lung damage resulting from smoking makes people more likely to develop symptomatic COVID-19, and the outcome of a COVID-19 infection is often worse for people who smoke.4
How can employers support the Great American Smokeout?
- Consider empowering a Great American Smokeout Coordinator or a collaboration between human resources and the company’s wellness committee and/or wellness programs.
- Communicate at least 2 weeks in advance about the date of the Great American Smokeout and any related company activities or initiatives.
- Take advantage of free resources on the American Cancer Society website, such as flyers, posters, stickers, pledge cards and participation certificates.
- Collaborate with a representative from the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Society or other reputable organizations to add support and provide easy access to materials, literature, posters, videos and educational programs.
- Consider all employees, including hourly, shift and part-time workers. Include union or labor relations staff (if applicable) in any event planning committees you organize.5
What can you do on Great American Smokeout day?
Create a buddy system. Smokers who want to quit can buddy up with nonsmokers who will “adopt” them for the day to provide them with accountability and support.
Create a competition where departments, regional offices or teams strive to collect the most “kept” pledges to quit.
Raffle off a “cold turkey” to Smokeout participants.
Invite nonsmokers to give up something in empathetic support of the smokers. Create pledge cards they can use to indicate what they’ll give up for the day, like coffee, chocolate or soft drinks.
Set up Great American Smokeout stations where smokers can trade cigarettes or nicotine products for gift certificates, chewing gum, carrot sticks or lollipops to help them “lick” the habit.
Incorporate other wellness activities. Arrange blood pressure screenings, fitness activities or nutritional counseling to be available for smokers trying to quit. Include nonsmokers as well.6
Invite a guest speaker for a lunch and learn event. For example, a pharmacist could talk about nicotine replacement options. A dietician could talk about how to prevent weight gain after quitting.
Encourage employees to donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a company-supported charity and consider matching those donations.7
Even after the Great American Smokeout is over and the strongest withdrawal symptoms have passed, staying smoke- and nicotine-free can be challenging. Remind employees of the resources available through Go365, including online calculators, coaching apps and online courses, such as the Living Free (Quit Smoking) course. Also, employees can visit Go365 for personalized recommendations and may be eligible for over-the-counter and/or prescription nicotine replacement therapy through their medical plan.
To find out more about Go365, contact your licensed Humana sales agent or request more information about Go365’s wellness program by filling out this formOpens in new window.
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1“The Great American Smokeout,” American Cancer Society, last accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.htmlOpens in new window.
2“The Great American Smokeout.”
3“Key Statistics for Lung Cancer,” American Cancer Society, last accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.htmlOpens in new window.
4Diane, “16 Ways to Celebrate The Great American Smokeout At Work,” Nursing Home Volunteer, last accessed October 18, 2021, https://nursinghomevolunteer.com/16-ways-to-celebrate-the-great-american-smokeout-at-work/Opens in new window.
5“Great American Smokeout Sample Activities,” Alabama Public Health, last accessed October 18, 2021, http://www.adph.org/tobacco/assets/GASOSampleActivities.pdfPDF opens in new window.
6“Great American Smokeout Sample Activities.”
7“16 Ways to Celebrate The Great American Smokeout At Work.”