Great American Smokeout 2020

“They all are”

Great American SmokeoutIn a normal year, I would have been long aware of the Great American Smokeout 2020. I might have written about it a month or two ago. Of course, I needn’t tell you the obvious.

“The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout® is an annual event that encourages and offers support to smokers to make a plan to quit smoking or to quit smoking on the day of the event – the third Thursday in November each year. By quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.”

Yeah, but you’ve given up so much already this year! Someone wants you to quit tobacco too? Well, yeah.

“Being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“If you currently smoke, quit. Now, if you used to smoke, don’t start again. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. Counseling from a healthcare provider and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications can double the chances of quitting smoking. For help quitting smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit

My sort of relative Arnold

Arnold Berman, the brother of my late great-aunt Charlotte I loved communicating with. He died in 2018, I believe, though my sense of time is shot to heck. He noted a few years ago, “You should know that the US Surgeon General was shamefully late with that first report.

Then this personal reflection. “I started smoking in 1939 at the age of 15 – I was pretty sophisticated. In 1952 I read the reports from Sweden clearly linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer. I discovered that this was old news with such reports dating back at least 10 years. Weighing this against the benefits of smoking I quit cold turkey – I was pretty sophisticated. In 1953 my wife of three years and I split. Wallowing in self-pity I started smoking again.

“In 2001 I discovered that I had an advanced abdominal aortic aneurysm and agreed to have open surgery for repair. My California daughter, a nurse-midwife, called the surgeon’s office to inform them that I was a smoker. She reported to me that the response was ‘they all are; that’s why they’re here.’ I gave up smoking for good.”

Tobacco advertising and the Smokeout

Vaping is not safe for those who do not currently use tobacco products

more doctors smoke camelsI’ve regularly mentioned the Great American Smokeout because I’m old enough to remember when tobacco consumption was lauded.

Recently, I came across a 1933 tobacco ad. It noted that “21 of 23 Giants” …Smoke Camels. The Giants referred to the New York baseball team. Check out the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, from which I purloined the above ad.

“The Great American Smokeout is an annual social engineering event on the third Thursday of November by the American Cancer Society… The event challenges people to stop smoking cigarettes for 24 hours, hoping their decision not to smoke will last forever. The first Great American Smokeout was held in San Francisco’s Union Square on November 16, 1977.”

How does one get people to stop smoking? Can you scare kids into not smoking? “That’s the premise behind a variety of programs that have placed graphic warnings on billboards, in magazine advertisements, and on packs themselves.

“Unfortunately, there is evidence such campaigns can be counterproductive. And new research examining the effects of a specific approach on a particularly vulnerable population suggests it might do more harm than good.”


I find the stories collected by the Centers for Disease Control compelling. In particular, I was moved by the ad about Leonard Nimoy starting to smoke cigarettes as a teenager “because he thought they were ‘cool.’ The American actor best known for his iconic role as Spock on the popular television and film series, Star Trek, smoked for 37 years” before dying of complications of COPD. But, of course, I’m not the audience.

The introduction of e-cigarettes, a/k/a vaping, was presumably designed to get adult smokers to quit the habit. Even the CDC suggests “e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.”

One in five high school students in the U.S. reported using an e-cigarette in 2018. “Nicotine addiction can affect brain development in young adults.” And of course, there are several stories “about the recent lung diseases that have been reported. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Now, the Federal Trade Commission is studying E-cigarette manufacturers’ sales, advertising, and promotional methods. The FTC “has issued orders to six e-cigarette manufacturers seeking information to study the companies’ sales, advertising, and promotional methods” for the calendar years 2015 through 2018.”

My layman’s observation is that tobacco advertising of vaping delivery systems was targeted teenagers as surely as the infamous Joe Camel ads did to young smokers a couple decades earlier. I’ll follow this story with great interest.

BTW, the notion that cream of tartar and orange juice will help you quit smoking is Pants on Fire false.

E-cigarettes: a solution to smoking?

“In addition to the unknown health effects, early evidence suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as an introductory product for preteens and teens who then go on to use other tobacco products.”

Because smoking still kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, back in July 2017, the Food and Drug Administration was considering a new rule that would require tobacco companies to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes.

Essentially the plan is to get people to quit by trying to make cigarettes less addictive. Tobacco stocks tumbled over the news. “But the FDA says the change will help the market innovate, and push people to turn to alternatives like e-cigarettes.”

There is evidence in England that as the popularity of e-cigarettes rises, more smokers are able to quit.

In the US, though, prelimary research shows that the fall in sales of traditional cigarettes, which had been dropping for decades, “slowed in 2015, while sales of e-cigarettes — which also pose health hazards — are skyrocketing.”

The National Institutes of Health notes: “E-cigarettes are popular among teens and are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States. Their easy availability, alluring advertisements, various e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they’re safer than cigarettes have helped make them appealing to this age group. Further, a study of high school students found that one in four teens reported using e-cigarettes for dripping, a practice in which people produce and inhale vapors by placing e-liquid drops directly onto heated atomizer coils…

“In addition to the unknown health effects, early evidence suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as an introductory product for preteens and teens who then go on to use other tobacco products, including cigarettes… A study showed that students who had used e-cigarettes by the time they started 9th grade were more likely than others to start smoking cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products within the next year. However, more research is needed…”

E-cigarettes can also be dangerous to very small children who may access the product.

The e-cigarette craze may not be the panacea some had hoped for. For the Great American Smokeout, smokers might consider resources suggested by the American Cancer Society.

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