Thursday is the day to quit -- smoking, that is, as the American Cancer Society marks its 37th Great American Smokeout.

The day is set aside to encourage smokers to quit or start taking steps in that direction.

More than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, even though tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

In 2010, there were also 13.2 million Americans who smoked cigars and 2.2 million who smoked tobacco in pipes.

Having Nov. 15 as the Great American Smokeout day is important because setting a date to stop is the first big step toward quitting tobacco use, said Renata Tate, tobacco cessation program coordinator at Memorial Hospital.

Listing reasons for quitting and identifying triggers that make a person want to smoke each day can help a person quit successfully, she said.

"When someone quits in haste they can do it short-time and temporarily, but when you prepare and plan ahead you are more armed with skills that are going to lead to increased chances of success," she said.

The strategy: A mindset of "all I have to do is get through one day and not smoke or use tobacco" often prompts success rather than being overwhelmed at thoughts of quitting long-term, Tate said.

If someone plans to use the Great American Smokeout as the beginning of the quit process, Tate advises using FDA-approved products for nicotine replacement therapy.

The increasingly popular e-cigs, or electronic cigarettes, have not yet been approved by the FDA as a cessation device, said Tate.

Programs: Memorial Hospital offers a free six-week quit class; the next set will be held on Monday evenings beginning Jan. 7. To register, call 849-5463.

The nicotine support group at Memorial Hospital welcomes anyone who is nicotine-free or who wants to become nicotine-free and meets from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every first and third Tuesday at 1420 Sixth Ave., Suite 3.

York Hospital offers a three-session tobacco education and cessation program beginning Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Discussion led by tobacco cessation counselors covers getting ready to quit, medication availability, physical and psychological dependence, coping skills and stress reduction techniques. To register, call 851-5189.

Pennsylvania's Free Quitline offers counseling and free nicotine patches to anyone with a desire to quit smoking. Trained counselors are available 24-7 at 1-877-724-1090.

-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com