Central Louisiana communities this month participated in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a nationally recognized event that encourages smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day.
The Catahoula Parish School District, Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center, the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center and Wellness Works in Cenla were each awarded grants from The Rapides Foundation’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Initiative to fund tobacco control activities throughout the year.
The Foundation encourages support of the Great American Smokeout because of its proven effectiveness. “One of the major goals of our Tobacco Prevention and Control Initiative is to promote quitting among adults,” said Joe Rosier, president and chief executive officer of The Rapides Foundation. “We know that about 24 percent of Central Louisiana adults smoke cigarettes, so this is the perfect opportunity to encourage them to quit.”
The Great American Smokeout launched in 1976 to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for one day. Now, 39.8 percent of the 43.4 million Americans who smoke have attempted to quit for at least one day in the past year, and the Great American Smokeout remains a great opportunity to encourage people to commit to making a long-term plan to quit for good.
In Catahoula Parish, Jonesville Junior High School students Brittany Fletcher and Taylor Perron presented the Great American Smokeout Day Proclamation to the Catahoula Parish School Board during the board’s November meeting. Students across the parish advocated Nov. 19 as the recognized day for people to put down their cigarettes, spit tobacco and other tobacco products, said coordinator Linda Edwards.
The Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center and the Central Louisiana AHEC monitored Great American Smokeout stations at various public events throughout the month. The stations provide visitors with numerous resources to help them quit using tobacco, including a “Quit Kit” and access to the Louisiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Central Louisiana AHEC had stations at a Lecompte Rotary Club meeting, Marksville and Winnfield high schools’ homecomings, a Louisiana College football game, the Louisiana Pecan Festival in Colfax, a tractor pull in Jena, the City of Alexandria’s Health Walk, an Aviation Rendezvous in Natchitoches Parish, a health fair in Leesville, the Cabrini Cancer Center and other locations. By the end of a five-week period, Central Louisiana AHEC’s Tobacco Outreach Coordinator Terry Thibodeaux had handed out more than 2,000 “Quit Kits.”
“I talked to many people who, from the heart, were saying, ‘I really need to quit. I want to quit,’” she said. At one event, a middle-aged man approached her to ask the location of the nearest smoking section. When she pointed out she was working an “It’s Quitting Time” booth, the man apologized and walked away. Not long after that, the man returned and with all sincerity said, “Ma’am, please give me all the information you have to help me quit smoking. Seeing you was a sign that I need to quit.”
On Nov. 7, the Southwest Louisiana AHEC had a station at Kingdom Rockfest 2009 at the Camp Coushatta Pavilion on the Coushatta Reservation in Elton, La. Hundreds attended the family-entertainment event, which was held in conjunction with both the Great American Smokeout and Red Ribbon Week.
“We had a great turnout and many people said they were going to try to quit smoking on the Great American Smokeout,” said Rene’ Stansbury, tobacco control coordinator for Southwest Louisiana AHEC. “Many of the attendees welcomed the information, and the children loved the games and prizes.”
She said Pastor Chris Harjo, one of the event’s organizers, was excited about the educational information available for the tribal members and looked forward to doing other activities to increase the awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.
Wellness Works in Cenla participated in the Great American Smokeout by providing tobacco cessation materials to Central Louisiana employers.
These four organizations will continue to do activities throughout the year to support the Foundation’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Initiative. The initiative’s goals are to help people quit using tobacco, to prevent young people from ever starting and to eliminate people’s exposure to secondhand smoke.