Helping Our Communities Kick the Cigarette Habit – The Great American Smokeout Is November 17, 2016

By LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH, Executive Director, NACCHO

On Nov. 17, local health departments (LHDs) will join the chorus of public health and healthcare organizations urging smokers to quit for just one day as part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout campaign. LHDs will lead the charge in their communities by providing evidence-based support and information. According to the American Cancer Society, “By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.”

Decades of research have shown the health benefits of giving up cigarettes are great and the financial savings substantial. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health among U.S. adults was released 50 years ago, cigarette smoking has decreased by approximately half. That’s the good news. The bad news is that since 1964, an estimated 20 million people have died because of smoking, which remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

The Nov. 11 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reported that “about two out of three adult smokers want to quit smoking cigarettes, and approximately half of smokers made a quit attempt in the preceding year.” The report also notes approximately 36.5 million people were current cigarette smokers.

The Benefits of Smoking Cessation by the Numbers

Smokers can save considerable amounts of money by quitting smoking. The Oklahoma City-County Health Department created a compelling video that describes the financial benefits of tobacco cessation. Watch the video.

Studies by the Surgeons General over the years have described the immediate and lasting effects of smoking cessation. The numbers are striking. The American Cancer Society describes the following effects of smoking cessation on smokers’ health:

  • 20 minutes after quitting, heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal.
  • Two weeks to three months after quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • One to 9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • One year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. The risk for heart attack drops dramatically.
  • Five years after quitting, the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. The risk for stroke can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years.
  • 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years after quitting, a former smoker’s risk for developing coronary heart disease will drop to that of a non-smoker’s risk.

Giving up smoking greatly improves health. Many people want to quit and their LHD can provide information, resources, and support to help them quit.

Local Health Departments Take Action

LHDs around the country work to prevent tobacco use and support smoking cessation in their communities in a variety of ways. For example, the Ingham County (MI) Health Department implemented a program called “House Calls” that provided home-based smoking cessation education and support to pregnant and parenting women who smoke. The program’s trainers used the 5A/5R smoking cessation intervention recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service, and motivational interviewing techniques, which provide collaborative strategies to support clients seeking to stop smoking. The Ingham County Health Department won NACCHO’s Model Practices Award in 2011 for the program.

This year, the Florida Department of Health in Broward County  won a NACCHO Model Practices Award for their efforts to prevent tobacco use among youth. DOH-Broward leveraged community partnerships to double the number of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) clubs in the county in one year. The SWAT clubs provided education and advocacy training, sought to create tobacco-free environments, and changed social norms around youth tobacco use.

Local Health Department Resources

Here are some resources from NACCHO, partners, and other healthcare organizations LHDs can use to serve their communities:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Cancer Society

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

U.S. Food and Drug Administration