The American Cancer Society’s 28th annual Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 18. It is a day when the society calls on smokers throughout Maine and across the country to go smoke free for the day, and consider giving up for good.

The society launched its first Great American Smokeout in 1977. It helped spark a movement that would lead to smoke-free laws from Maine to California.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S. In 2004, approximately 950 people in Maine will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 880 will die. Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 75 percent of lung cancer deaths among women. Nonsmokers are also impacted by cigarette smoke as each year about 3,000 nonsmoking adults in the United States die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking, or never smoking at all, is the best way to prevent lung cancer.

Even though smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the 28 years since the first Great American Smokeout, tobacco continues to be a major cancer killer.

* Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in this society.
* Smoking will cause about 30 percent of 2004’s estimated 3,100 cancer deaths in Maine.
* Smoking causes many cancers besides lung cancer. It is a major cause of cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas and cervix and has more recently been associated with colorectal cancer, myeloid leukemia, and cancers of the liver, stomach and nasal sinuses.
* Tobacco is as addicting as opiates, amphetamines and cocaine.
* Each year, secondhand smoke may be responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults in the United States.
* Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known or suspected to cause cancer in humans and animals.
*Cigars contain many of the same carcinogens that are found in cigarettes, and cigar smoking has been on the increase. It can cause cancer of the lung, oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and possibly the pancreas. Oral cancer occurs several times more frequently among snuff dippers compared with nontobacco users.

A person will be most successful in quitting smoking if they combine nicotine replacement therapies, prescription drugs, counseling, and/or a network of family and friends for encouragement. This can double their chances of success. A total of 44.4 million American adults are now former smokers.