By Marty Finley

Smoking has been a topic of interest for years. The Surgeon General and national organizations continue to warn against the dangers of lighting up. It’s also been a heated topic in Richmond with the passing of the Clean Indoor Air Regulation in Madison County.

But today, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Eastern’s Employee Wellness Program are asking smokers to lay down the cigarettes, if only for one day.

The event, titled the Great American Smokeout, is an annual one-day affair in which the American Cancer Society, in partnership with organizations across the nation, work to help smokers quit and inform people of the dangers of smoking.

Eastern will have booths available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Powell Corner.

“We’re trying to.encourage people to get involved on campus,” said Leanna Bowles, a graduate assistant and representative for the Healthy You!, at EKU program.

Bowles said the program would be offering cold turkey sandwiches to people who give up 10 cigarettes; those who give up one cigarette will get something as well, such as a lollipop.

“Give up your cigarettes and get an award,” she said. “And give an incentive to quit smoking.”

Brochures and contact information for the American Cancer Society’s helpline will also be available at the booths.

The ACS’ helpline, known as the quitline, is available in 12 states, including Kentucky. It is also available in more than 75 businesses and health plans around the nation, according to the American Cancer Society.

Visual aids, such as a device that simulates a mouth filled with cancer, will also be available at the event.

“We hear about (the dangers) of smoking, but we rarely see these images,” Bowles said.

The program first got its start out of an event in Randolph, Miss. A man named Athur P. Mullaney encouraged people to quit smoking for one day and use the money they would normally spend to buy cigarettes to donate to a scholarship fund, according to the American Cancer Society.

The event continued when Lynn R. Smith of the “Monticello Times” in Minnesota started an event known as Don’t Smoke Day, or D-Day.

The American Cancer Society took the idea in 1976 and had its first “Smokeout” in California, where it claimed it reached more than 1 million smokers. The event went national in 1977.

At Eastern, the event has been in rotation for a few years, but Bowles said it is sometimes tough to reach smokers.

Bowles said the organizations have no set goal, and will be happy if only one or two smokers take the challenge.

“If they’re willing to give up cigarettes, we’ll help them any way we can,” she said.