Great American Smokeout 2021: Tips for Quitting

By Pat Carragher - November 18, 2021

More than 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes one in five deaths and more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases.

Each year, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to participate in the Great American Smokeout. The event, held annually on the third Thursday of November, is an opportunity for smokers to commit to a healthy, smoke-free life and learn about the tools they can use to quit.

As a tobacco treatment specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center, Lisa Sloan helps patients use those tools to come up with a plan to quit smoking.

“In order to figure out the formula that works, we need to start by trying,” said Sloan “We need to have warmups. A lot of times people think they’re not ready, but we don’t throw you in the deep end right away. Sometimes it takes a long time to quit. That’s OK, as long as we get there.”

"Sometimes it takes a long time to quit. That’s OK, as long as we get there."

- Lisa Sloan, tobacco treatment specialist

Smoking is not a natural process and for most, it took practice. It will also take time and practice to quit. According to Sloan, people with a family history of smoking can have a tougher time quitting than others.

“Running and staying fit isn’t going to protect you from your genetics,” said Sloan. “We know so much about DNA now that we didn’t know before. We know if your mom or dad was a smoker, then you’ve got DNA that says you like nicotine. You’re going to have a longer journey. It doesn’t mean you can’t quit; you just have to prepare a little harder.”

The good news is that quitting smoking almost immediately improves health no matter the age.

Here are four steps to make today day one of a smoke-free life:

Step 1: Think – Think back on your other quit attempts. You are the best expert on yourself, so what worked and what didn’t? Did you start slow? Set a quit day? Calculate your potential savings? Did you write your reasons for quitting and read it often? Most people have made many attempts so it’s important to take the wisdom you have learned from your past efforts to make this time successful.

Step 2: Try – Cigarettes are designer drugs specially made to be difficult to quit, so try quit-smoking medication. Review what quit-smoking medicine helped in the past, decide what you would be willing to try and talk to your doctor and others who have successfully quit. Remember, trying is how you learned to smoke, so it’s important to try to quit. Keep trying techniques that worked in the past and adjust, so they work better this time. Try practicing smoke-free driving, having a smoke-free home, or an after dinner or morning mini-quit.

Step 3: Plan – You plan to smoke so it’s so natural you don’t even notice you’re doing it. Do you schedule a time to smoke before a long meeting, movie or airplane ride? Manage a smoke-free work shift because you have a plan to smoke when it’s done? Maybe at work you synchronize your smoking with others or go through the effort to remove the cigarette smell for the benefits of others? Plan your quit: Plan to have a water bottle in the car instead of a cigarette or plan a walk with a nonsmoking co-worker. Keep a duster by the phone so you have something in your hands. When you get home, have your favorite music, hobby or TV show ready to enjoy and help you relax.

Step 4: Keep going – Perfection would be lovely, but it’s unlikely. If you stumble, stop, brush yourself off and keep going. If you broke down and bought a pack or took a puff and are thinking, “What am I doing?” Quick, throw them out. You are not throwing out your friend, you are throwing out poison. Review why you are working so hard to quit and evaluate your progress. Check and improve your plan and say, “I CAN do this.” Don’t let a stumble keep you from your dream of a smoke-free you. Think. Try. Plan. Keep going. 

Need more help? Moffitt’s tobacco treatment program helps patients and family members quit smoking as comfortably as possible with the help of our trained certified tobacco treatment specialist. For more information, call 813-745-8811 or email

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