This week is the 40th anniversary of the launch of what is possibly the most successful, long-running public health campaign in history. Any guesses? Here are some clues:
- Kiss Me I Don’t Smoke
- Larry Hagman Red Wrist-Slappin’ Rubber Bands
- Adopt a Smoker
- Mr. Potato Head as "Spokespud”
- I’m a Born Non-Smoker (free T-shirts for babies born that day)
- Plastic two-finger rings (so you can’t fit the cigarette between your fingers)
- Sliding frozen turkeys down bowling lanes to celebrate being smoke free
- The Brooke Shields poster with cigarettes coming out of her ears
No doubt you figured it out: the Great American Smokeout. The American Cancer Society’s big event is commemorated today, Thursday November 17. But tomorrow, 40 years will have passed since November 18th, 1976, when the California Division of the American Cancer Society motivated nearly 1 million smokers to successfully quit for one day. The Smokeout went nationwide a year later and continues to hold staying power today.
Quitting smoking in 2016 is different today than it was back in the bicentennial year. While chemical addiction to the drug nicotine is the same, as is the smoker’s psychological dependence on tobacco, cessation strategies have changed dramatically. Going cold turkey can still be effective, but more smokers now turn to new technologies for help. These aren’t your grandmother’s ways to quit - but 21st century smokers want high tech solutions.
Here are a few examples:
- The use of health promotion apps for smartphones and tablets is rapidly increasing. In addition to the many fitness and wellness apps available, there are now smoking cessation apps with cool names like “Qwit”, “Butt Out”, and “Get Rich or Die Smoking.” They are designed to be participatory, encouraging, and educational – all on the user’s personal touch screen.
- Text messaging is widely available, inexpensive, and allows for immediate delivery of support and information. Text messaging initiatives like Smokefree TXT give smokers the constant encouragement, reminders, and tips they need to stay focused on quitting. I guess if your beloved smartphone tells you to set a quit date, you do it!
- Social networking sites like this Facebook community support smokers in their quit attempts by building a sense of connectedness and community. Members who use them are more likely to quit successfully and maintain abstinence from tobacco.
- 91% of young people play video games regularly. At this age they are particularly sensitive to the addictive effects of tobacco. Games have great potential to reach this group to promote health and a tobacco free lifestyle. A good example is Flavor Monsters, a game by Truth Initiative, in which players fight against the invasion of flavored tobacco products. Also, check out the innovative Minecraft Fear Clinic or try an old classic to take your mind off of smoking: a heady game of Tetris.
- Tobacco cessation websites like www.smokefree.gov and www.becomeanex.org offer a wide range of free information, support, and virtual connectedness to quitters.
- All states offer free telephone quitlines with counselors who are trained specifically to help smokers quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get connected.