Smokers ‘put out butts’ for Great American Smokeout

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

In what could be billed as the grumpiest day in America, smokers were encouraged to put down the cigarettes for an entire day in support of Thursday’s Great American Smokeout.

Always the third Thursday in November, the smokeout relies on camaraderie and support to help smokers get a head start on quitting and prove to themselves that they can, in fact, live without a cigarette. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Department of Preventative Medicine and the Wellness Center joined forces to help make this year’s Tobacco Free at LRMC smokeout a success.

Support and a whole lot of chewing gum were the catalysts for the program. Set up outside of the dining facility was an adoption agency of sorts.
“People had the opportunity to adopt a smoker for the day,” said Joyce Patrick, Wellness Center director. “It was pretty official. We had adoption papers and everything.”

The adoption meant that the adopter had to do everything short of tying up the person, to keep him from smoking a cigarette for 24 hours. The adopter talked to the smoker prior to the adoption to find out what would help the smoker fight his cravings. Common items like gum, sunflower seeds and a stress ball would be collected and put into a kit that the smoker could carry around to help control his urge to choke someone.

“The adopted parent will have to help the smoker not become a total monster,” said Ms. Patrick. “The absence of nicotine can produce some strong feelings of stress. It can take some work – feeding them gummy bears all day, whatever works. The adoption papers specified that you must do whatever is necessary to help that smoker remain smoke free for at least 24 hours. You may have to bribe them with food or money or time share vacations.”

The smokeout began in the 1970s when smoking and secondhand smoke were commonplace. In 1971, a Massachusetts man had 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. Three years later, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Moticello Times in Minnesota, organized the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day, according to the American Cancer Society’s Website.

The idea caught on, and on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. That event marked the first smokeout, and the society took it nationwide in 1977.
Since then, the campaign has gathered momentum, drawing attention to the deaths and chronic disease caused by smoking. Many state and local governments responded by banning smoking in workplaces and restaurants, raising taxes on cigarettes, limiting advertising and discouraging teen cigarette use.

Nowadays, the campaign is such a fixture in American culture that good turnouts are expected.

“We have a good response each year that we do the smokeout,” she said. “We invite everyone. We actually have given away free cold turkeys to people who have participated.”

The adoption, however, has been one of the most successful methods of helping those involved in the smokeout.

“It’s important for the smoker to tell their friends that they have been adopted, avoid smoke-filled rooms and just remember that they are leaving the past behind – at least for one day,” said Ms. Patrick.