NEW YORK (AP) _ The American Cancer Society and hordes of volunteers are gearing up for Thursday's 12th Great American Smokeout as the tobacco industry launches a program to assure smokers they're welcome at restaurants and hotels.

The Smokeout is the American Cancer Society's attempt to get some of the nation's 46.8 million smokers to kick the habit ''just for the day.''

The society provides the promotional materials, such as stickers, balloons, banners and T-Shirts, used in Smokeout events across the country. It also puts together guidebooks and how-to manuals for its local offices and Smokeout kits for large institutions, such as corporations, hospitals and schools.

''But basically the team that puts over Smokeout or does all of the footwork in the local communities are volunteers,'' said Joann Schellenbach, the society's media relations director in New York.

All local offices of the society do something on Smokeout day, ''from minimal by a single staffer and a few volunteers in some rural offices to very splashy downtown events in places like Houston and Dallas, Seattle, Cleveland, involving quite a few hundred people each,'' she said.

The Tobacco Institute officially announced its ''Great American Welcome'' program in newspaper advertisements Tuesday, but a spokesman said that program was not planned as rebuttal to the Smokeout.

''We're not really doing anything to counter the Smokeout,'' said Gary Miller, assistant to the president of the Tobacco Institute in Washington.

''If they're (the American Cancer Society) going to do it they're going to do it. If they want to go ahead and attach a stigma to people who smoke that's up to them.''

Miller said the program was announced in an industry magazine weeks ago, and announced to the public on Tuesday. Participating businesses are given decals to display.

''It's aimed at businesses that believe that smokers and non-smokers are welcome valuable customers to accommodate and who want make your experience with them enjoyable,'' said Miller.

Tuesday's ad invites people to call a toll-free number to find businesses nationwide that are a part of the welcome program.