Interior view of a trolley or train car, where a man is smoking and causing considerable discomfort among the other passengers

What’s Your Quit Day?

By Ginny A. Roth

Passengers bothered by smoking in a trolley car.
The Smoke Nuisance, ca. 1880
National Library of Medicine #101436862

For nearly 42 million Americans, smoking is a hard habit to break.  The American Cancer Society (ACS) calls tobacco use the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, yet for most smokers, quitting seems an unattainable goal. The public areas in which individuals are permitted to smoke are dwindling, and so it is hard to conceive of a time when smoking was allowed in such places as public transportation. This 19th century illustration was featured in Good Health: A Journal Of Hygiene, a magazine created by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his wife Ella, which promoted vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol and narcotics. The image is an interior view of a trolley or train car featuring a man smoking and subsequently causing considerable discomfort among the other passengers, particularly for two women and a young boy who are complaining about the smell. Now, well over 100 years later, this is still a familiar scene to anyone who has been in the proximity of a smoker.

With nicotine, the drug found in tobacco, being so highly addictive, how does one go about quitting? The ACS’s Great American Smokeout, which occurs the third Thursday of every November, is a great place to start. Today, November 20th, millions of smokers nationwide are encouraged to quit smoking for the day, or make a plan to quit. Setting a quit date is often the first step in creating this plan, which can then be shared with family and friends for support. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the list “Five Ways to Get Ready to Quit Smoking,” guidelines for smokers to help curb withdrawal symptoms during the beginning of the quitting process. The ACS also has valuable online resources including the “Guide to Quitting Smoking.”

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, as any smoker can attest.  Repeated attempts and various methods may be required. But, as the National Cancer Institute suggests, keep trying because the health benefits will begin almost immediately and then continue to grow over time.


Informal portrait of Ginny RothGinny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.



  1. I began smoking at @age 13.It was the thing to do at the time.After 15 years,I would sometimes smoke nearly 3 packs a day.I finally realized that I had difficulty going up a flight of stairs breathing.I decided to quit right there.Cold turkey was very hard for the first 2-3 weeks.I gradually got used to not smoking.After 6 months,I no longer “required” a cigarette.I am still alive today

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