Stop Smoking Campaigns: Hit Teens Where They Live

Whether anyone knows it or not, November 20, 2014, marked the 39th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Great American Smokeout. The event takes place the third Thursday of every November. The event challenges tobacco users to stop using the harmful products on that very day and is geared to make tobacco users aware of tools they can use to help them quit and “stay quit.” In November 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote that youth smoking rates will cause their early demise, but are young adults and kids paying attention? Have they ever heard of the Great American Smokeout?

The event is publicized on the local level and rallies volunteers to press for laws that control tobacco use and discourage teen tobacco use. The event highlights strategies for quitting such as: telephone smoking-cessation hotlines; online quitting support groups; nicotine replacement products; and family and friend support. The ACS notes that a combination of strategies works best to keep people tobacco-free.

Humble Beginnings

According to the ACS, the Great American Smokeout began when during a 1970 event in Massachusetts, Arthur P. Mullaney 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. That sparked a Minnesota editor to front her state’s first “Don’t Smoke Day” in 1974, and two years later, the California Division of the ACS was able to get almost 1 million smokers to quit for the day. The ACS credits the movement with the many state laws that now ban smoking in public places; raise taxes on cigarettes, limit cigarette promotions, and discourage teen cigarette use.


The Surgeon General January 2014 report claims that 5.6 million youth currently aged zero to 17 will die prematurely from a cigarette smoking-related illness unless youth smoking rates drastically drop. The CDC sees combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and pipes, as the main culprit.

A November 2014 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reports that almost 23 percent of high school students currently use a tobacco product. According to the CDC’s 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 46 percent of all high school students and 17.7 percent of middle school students reported using a tobacco product at least once. Further, youths who say they use more than one tobacco product are at higher risk for developing nicotine dependence that can lead to continued smoking into adulthood. The NYTS indicates that “most youth who use tobacco believe they will be able to quit, but about three out of four high school smokers continue smoking into adulthood.”

Other Efforts

Other smoking cessation efforts have included the FDA’s launching of The Real Cost in February 2014. The year-long national marketing campaign is aimed at youths between the ages of 12 and 17. Additionally, CVS stores removed all tobacco products from store shelves in September 2014.


The stop smoking efforts are admirable, but useless, if the audience they target does not even notice. When asked in November 2014 whether they have heard of the Great American Smokeout, 40 Nevada teens said, “The Great American what?” Smoking cessation campaigns like the Great American Smokeout should be bombarding online video games, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Vine, and any other social media site that teens use in order to make the difference that the Surgeon General and American Cancer Society desire.