How effective is the “Great American Smokeout” in helping people quit smoking?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes more than 200 separate health-focused "awareness days" every year.

November alone honors World Diabetes Day, World Pancreatic Cancer Day, and World Antibiotic Awareness week. The list goes on and on.

Thursday, November 16th is the American Cancer Society's "Great American Smokeout." But how effective are days like this in helping people quit smoking?

Health researchers from San Diego State University say the answer is very effective, after conducting a five-year study. They found that compared to an average day, during the "Great American Smokeout" from 2009-2014, people were 61% more likely to tweet about kicking the habit. Google searches like "help quit smoking" rose by 25%, and calls to quit lines jumped 42%.

Experts from the American Cancer Society say quitting, even for one day, helps.

"If you quit before the age of 35, you can gain most of the life years lost from smoking tobacco products," says Jeff Drope of the American Cancer Society. "So you're looking, on average, of a ten year loss. And you can gain nine of those years back if you quit. Even if you're older, you can still gain life years back. So there is a motivation to quit even well into your elderly years."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes 480,000 deaths every year in the U.S. That's more than the number of people that die from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, car accidents, and gun violence combined.

The "Great American Smokeout" is held the third Thursday of every November. It's one of the longest-running health "awareness days." 2017 marks its 42nd year.