SOUTH BEND -- The day Regina West, 53, had her last cigarette last month, her 3-year-old granddaughter picked out a new dress for her at Good Will as a way to say congratulations.
The South Bend woman had her first cigarette at 18, and is now about 45 days into quitting after her two grandchildren begged her to stop.
"My 10-year-old, he said, 'Granny, you should stop doing that,'" West said.
Like thousands across the country, West participated in the American Cancer Society's 37th annual Great American Smoke Out Thursday, both re-committing to her own avowal to never smoke again and hoping to encourage others to do so.
The Tobacco Free St. Joseph County coalition organized a local Smoke Out downtown at the College Football Hall of Fame gridiron. Volunteers passed out blue T-shirts and educational materials about smoking and smoke-free policies.
An idea for a day in which all smokers quit for 24 hours was born in the 1970s.
Though unclear whether local smokers may have stopped for one day, organizer Sandi Pontius said the coalition hopes to educate the public and press local government to strengthen city and county smoking ordinances.
The group collected cards that event-goers could sign to show support for smoke-free policies locally.
Pontius said the group hopes to take the cards to the city and county council meetings.
"We want to show them people's support," she said.
Discussions of county and city smoking bans in bars and restaurants have arisen during government meetings, but a comprehensive ban has never been passed.
The South Bend Common Council tabled a vote on a smoking ban in city bars in July.
Pontius said the cards through which residents can pledge support for smoking bans will be at several local establishments throughout the week to gain support, but she said the details have not yet been finalized.
Secondhand smoke was a reigning theme of the rally, as many mothers with children said they came to support policies that would curtail smoking in public.
Cristina Hernandez, 22, cradled an 8-month-old baby while her two sons, 5 and 2, ran around the gridiron wearing the rally's T-shirts.
"I want people to stop smoking around kids," Hernandez said. "It's very dangerous for kids to be around."
Staff writer Madeline Buckley: