"Today, as we celebrate the Great American Smokeout, I encourage all smokers to join the millions of others around the country who have committed to living a tobacco-free life," Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, says in a statement.
"Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 440,000 people in the U.S. die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and more than 8 million Americans are living with a serious illness caused by smoking."
By quitting, smokers can reclaim their health. The benefits begin the day a smoker quits and continue for the rest of his or her life, Sebelius says.
"Today, on the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, let's support our family and friends who are smokers by encouraging them to not smoke today and to make plans to quit smoking for good."
For individuals trying to quit, there is help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free assistance, and visit www.BeTobaccoFree.gov, a comprehensive website with information on avoiding or ending tobacco use, Sebelius says.
"In 2014, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first surgeon general's Report on Smoking and Health with the release of a new report, which will highlight 50 years of progress in tobacco control and prevention and present new data on the health consequences of tobacco use," Sebelius says.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]