More than 30 years ago the American Cancer Society started the Great American Smokeout as an annual day to spotlight the dangers of smoking and challenge people to stop using tobacco.

Today is that day.

On this anniversary, the Society has renewed its pledge to conquer lung cancer, help smokers make the important decision to quit, and support them in their efforts. But if you're a smoker, all the pleading and newspaper editorials in the world won't make a difference unless you're ready to change your lifestyle.

If you're a smoker we understand that quitting isn't easy. We won't insult your intelligence by flashing some huge dollar figure at you and suggest if you quit your pack-a-day habit you'll save enough money in a year to buy a large-screen TV.

We'll just stick to the facts ... and they all prove that smoking is deadly.

The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew out of a 1971 event, when Massachusetts resident Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up smoking for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a local high school. Then, in 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state's first D-Day, or Don't Smoke Day.

The idea caught on, and on November 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. That California event marked the first Smokeout, and the Society took it nationwide in 1977.

Today, an estimated 42 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use can cause lung cancer, as well as other cancers, heart disease, and respiratory disease; and each year smoking contributes to one of five deaths. Fortunately, the past 30 years have seen tremendous strides in reversing attitudes towards smoking, understanding the addiction, and learning how to help people quit.

But far too many of us still smoke and young people are taking up the habit all too often.

If you're ready to quit, you should know you are not alone. There are several local resources that will aid you in your battle. Begin with your family doctor. He or she can head you in the right direction.

Today may be the official Great American Smokeout day, but any day is a great day to quit smoking.