Great American Smokeout

Thursday marked the 31st anniversary of the Great American Smokeout -- a day when smokers are encouraged to kick the habit for good.

Smokers are encouraged to call the American Cancer Society's "quitline" or log-on to the society's website for tools to help them quit smoking.

Exactly half of the United States now has smoke-free laws in place, which experts say should make it easier for smokers to stop.

Experts are also urging smokers to try nicotine patches, gum or medication -- and they say gathering support from friends and family increases the chance they will quit.

Experts say the effects of quitting smoking are immediate -- 20 minutes after quitting heart and blood pressure rates drop, and 15 years after quitting the risk for heart disease is the same as non-smoker's.