In a few weeks, my husband will celebrate two years smoke-free. Next March will mark the anniversary of my grandfather’s death from emphysema after a lifetime of smoking a pack a day.

Both of them tried to quit dozens of times. So, why was my husband successful, where my grandfather smoked his way to an early grave?

I can’t be certain, but I believe a large part of the difference was information and education.

When my grandfather first started smoking in his teens, the American public was in a fog of ignorance of the dangers of smoking. There were no shocking truth.com PSAs, no multimillion-dollar judgments against tobacco companies. Everywhere he went, he was allowed to smoke freely.

And to be fair, for the most part, he was fine. He was one of the most active people I’d ever known. Until I was in high school, when he started having trouble breathing and couldn’t finish a sentence without a hacking cough that would shake the room. He died a few years later.

My husband started smoking in high school. He says he did it because his friends were smoking, too, even in the face of countless anti-smoking campaigns about the dangers of tobacco. He smoked throughout our entire courtship and the first two years of our marriage. When he finally quit in 2010, he cited our children and his health as his main motivators. “I couldn’t ignore what I knew I was doing to myself,” he told me.

That’s the difference, I think. My grandfather had no clue what smoking was doing to him until it was too late. Like they say, knowledge is power and when people know better, they do better.

So, even though today’s Great American Smokeout (Nov. 17) might seem like a day that’s just sandwiched between Halloween and Thanksgiving, it can be more than that. It can be a day — maybe the day — that someone in your workplace knows better and decides to do better.

Are you celebrating the Great American Smokeout in your workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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