The Great American Smokeout or GASO is an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This event takes place on the third Thursday of November and encourages smokers to use this date to make a plan to quit smoking.
During the Great America Smokeout, local, state, and national organizations work to promote awareness of the dangers of smoking with the hopes of increasing community awareness. It is also a perfect time for those who work with the youth of America to bring up the subject of smoking and tobacco use aiding in the prevention among our youth.
A study conducted by the CDC in 2005 showed that 80% of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in the last month. That same study also found that 23% smokers began smoking before the age of 18. A study conducted by the American Lung association reports that 90% of all smokers began smoking before the age of 21.
Those sobering statistics along with the knowledge that each day 3,900 young people take their first cigarette is what motivates community youth leaders, teachers, mentors, and parents to educate on the dangers of smoking. It also helps propel them to create smoke-free events proving that a happy and healthy community can exist when everyone works together for that common goal.
Coaches are the perfect partners to prevent the start of cigarette smoking. Educating on the effects cigarette smoking has on their athletic abilities deters young people from lighting up. Coaches from the football field, basketball court, gymnastics mats, cheer floors and beyond have the ability to affect the decisions of their athletes. Armed with the information that smoking can wreck your lungs, reduce oxygen available for your muscles, create a shortness of breath, and narrow your blood vessels, putting a strain on your heart coaches have the ability to steer their young and ambitious athletes away from the dangers of cigarettes.
Community mentors such as Girl Scout Leaders, Boy Scout Leaders, and teachers also have a vantage point in the Great American Smokeout. As mentors and community leaders often the youth of our community look to these leaders for guidance as they maneuver through adolescence and into the teen years. By speaking directly to youth during the Great American Smokeout, participating in events such as “Smoking Stinks” and Red Ribbon Week, these leaders are making a positive statement to deter the start of smoking among our youth. Even something as simple as a handout that shows how yellow and ugly your teeth become from smoking can prevent a young man or woman from picking up that first cigarette.
Taking a stand at home early and often will always be the key to preventing your child from picking up that first cigarette. There is no argument that children are influenced by movies, music, and TV but it is also true that their parents will still remain their greatest influence. Experts agree that speaking directly to your children about the risks of tobacco is important. If you have had a family or friends who suffers from tobacco related illnesses or succumbed to a tobacco related disease, they need to know that. It can make all the difference in the decisions they make. As a parent the Great American Smokeout should start at home.
If you are a parent that also suffers from addiction you can still make a difference in the life of your own child. Of course, the best way would be to quit for you but if that seems impossible right now there are still ways to make a positive statement. First, don’t smoke in the presence of your child, never make it seems glamorous or attractive, never offer them a cigarette, and never leave them where they are available for your child.
Hilary Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes a community and its leaders to prevent smoking among their youth. It takes a nation to stop smoking all together. Join in as a positive leader in the Great American Smokeout and help make a difference in the youth of America.
Happy and Healthy, the Heather Way!