The American Cancer Society (ACS) sponsored Thursday the 24th-annual Great American Smokeout (GAS), urging students to stamp out their butts and spare their lungs.

Volunteers from Students Teaching Alcohol and other drug Responsibilities (S.T.A.R.), handed out packets in the Arbor in exchange for a pledge to either quit smoking for the day or to help others quit. The packets contained brochures, candy, stickers, playing cards with facts about smoking and other items intended to help people kick the habit.

“More people try to quit today than any other day of the year,” volunteer Andrea Gladstone said.

As many as 80 people pledged to quit and received information on the dangers of smoking within the first two hours of setup for the event.

“We’re trying to educate the American public on stopping smoking,” ACS Community Services Director Kate Hannah said. “We’re promoting businesses and colleges for a smoke-free environment.”

Arthur Mullany started GAS in 1971 to get smokers to donate their cigarette money for the day to a high school scholarship fund. In 1977, the ACS sponsored the first nationwide GAS. Since then, the ACS claims millions have stopped smoking, and the program has expanded the event to include smoking education.

As part of its education effort, the ACS gives smokers statistics about the cost of smoking, which they estimate at nearly $1,200 per year for a pack-a-day habit.

A survey by the Santa Barbara County Health Dept. found that 40 percent of UCSB students smoke at least once a month.

“The fastest growing group of smokers are 18- to 24-years-old, which is unusual. It used to be if you made it to 18 without smoking, then you had a slim chance of smoking later on in life,” Senior Health Education Associate Jan Koegler said.

Despite the estimated increasing number of smokers on campus, California has the second-lowest percentage of smokers, at 18 percent, compared to 25 percent of the United States.

Every year, 420,000 people in the United States, 418 of them in Santa Barbara County, die of smoking-related causes, according to the ACS.

“Smoking causes more deaths than alcohol, murder, genocide, and heart problems not associated with smoking combined,” said Associated Students Off-Campus Rep Bridget Saltzman, who authored a recent resolution calling for an on-campus ban of cigarette sales.