LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. causing health issues like cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Thursday was the Great American Smokeout when smokers across the country are urged to take that first step toward quitting.

In Wisconsin, it's estimated nearly 8,000 Wisconsinites die each year because of smoking.  And research continues to show fewer people in the state are smoking. "I'm real pleased to see us under 20%.  I think that's real great, you know the true testament will be if we can continue to keep it that low and maybe even move it a little bit lower, if we can keep kids from starting that's a big thing," said La Crosse Co. Health Educator Paula Silha.

There are a couple of resources available if you want to take the first steps to a smoke-free life. You can visit wiquitline.org or call 1-800-QUITNOW for more information.