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Great American Smokeout is Thursday

The 34th annual Great American Smokeout will take place Thursday. Every year, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to quit smoking for a day in the hope that they may quit for good.

Many people no longer realize that Minnesota was the birthplace of the Smokeout.

In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, a newspaper editor from Monticello, Minn., and a former smoker was the first to organize a special day where smokers were encouraged to quit smoking for their health.

It was called "D-Day" or "Don't Smoke Day." About 300 smokers took the pledge to stop smoking for the day and Smith printed their names on the front page of his newspaper, the Monticello Times.

"It must have been tough for the people who tried to quit smoking on that first Don't Smoke Day," said Karen Main, director of Goodhue County Public Health Service. "They didn't have the resources and support available to them that we have today. Now, everyone in Minnesota can get help to quit smoking."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most smokers make more than one attempt to quit before they succeed. Smokers who get help to quit are much more likely to succeed.

Most health insurance plans provide quit smoking services for their members at no cost as part of their preventive care. This usually includes a special Quit Line number smokers can call to get one-on-one help from a trained smoking cessation counselor. There may be co-pays for quit smoking medication. Contact your health plan for more information.

QUITPLAN Services provides free help to quit smoking to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Minnesota. This includes a Helpline (1-888-354-PLAN) that offers telephone counseling and free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum to eligible callers.

There is also a Web site,, that offers quitting tools and activities, along with the chance to connect online with thousands of others who have quit or are in the process of quitting.

The idea of a special day to encourage smokers to quit spread from Minnesota to the California Division of the American Cancer Society.

In 1976 they adopted Lynn Smith's "Don't Smoke Day" concept and added the name "Smokeout," which was coined as part of a 1971 fundraiser held in a town in Massachusetts. The California event was a big success -- nearly one

million smokers participated. The first national Great American Smokeout was held in 1977.

Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking the body begins a series of healthy changes that continue for years. Goodhue County Public Health Service encourages everyone who smokes to participate in the Great American Smokeout on Thursday. It could be the first step toward living a longer, healthier life.

What happens when you quit smoking?

Less than a half hour after you smoke your last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.

After 20 minutes:

Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

After 12 hours:

Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

After two weeks to three months:

Your heart attack risk begins to drop. Your lung function begins to improve.

After one to nine months:

Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

After one year:

Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.

After five to 15 years:

Your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.

After 10 years:

Your lung cancer rate is about half that of a smoker's. Your risk for other types of cancer also decreases.

After 15 years:

Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker's.

SOURCE: The Health Consequences of Smoking: What it means to you -- U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004.