In 1971, a Massachusetts resident named Arthur P. Mullaney came up with the idea of asking people to give up smoking for one day and fund high school scholarships with the money they would have spent on cigarettes.
Mullaney's idea quickly spread over the next six years, and in 1977, the Great American Smokeout Day was born.
Next Thursday, the American Cancer Society will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the nationwide anti-tobacco event, as people in all 50 states will be asked to refrain from smoking for a 24-hour period.
A variety of local events will also take place around the state of Iowa, including a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol Building in which 25 people will be recognized by Governor Tom Vilsack for their work in tobacco prevention education.
Third grade students in Amy Bailey's class at South Elementary School are also participating in the Smokeout event, as they created posters listing "12 Things to do Instead of Smoking," which are hanging in the window of 703 Lake Ave. in downtown Storm Lake.
"The kids have really enjoyed this," Bailey said. "They've learned that smoking is bad for you and that there are bad things that happen to your body if you do smoke. It's been a good experience for them."
Jean Anderson, an employee of the American Cancer Society office in Storm Lake, said the Smokeout has been a pivotal event for many people across the nation in their quest to stop smoking over the past 25 years.
"There have been statistics that show when people quit smoking together on days like this, it's a great start for those people to be able to break the habit entirely," Anderson said. "Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States today, and the Smokeout has really helped people become more aware about the dangers of smoking."
Since the Smokeout's inception, many cities have banned smoking in private workplaces, the federal government has prohibited smoking on all interstate buses and domestic flights of six hours or less and a $206 billion settlement between cigarette manufacturers and 45 states was reached in 1999, requiring tobacco companies to cover Medicaid costs of treating smokers.
Anderson said the event has helped alter the popularity of tobacco significantly, and said she hopes the anniversary can help people in Storm Lake and across the United States break the smoking habit for good.
"The best way to celebrate this anniversary would be to quit smoking," Anderson said. "It's a great day for people who are wanting to quit smoking to start for that day and continue from there."