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Man behind tobacco campaign delivers message to Central Louisiana students
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Man behind tobacco campaign delivers message to Central Louisiana students

Rick Stoddard, the man who launched an anti-tobacco crusade after losing his 46-year-old wife to lung cancer eight years ago, delivered his message to 8,500 students in nine parishes of Central Louisiana from Nov. 3 to Nov. 14.

Stoddard took on the tobacco industry after the untimely death of his wife, Marie, a cigarette smoker who was never able to shake the addiction. He is featured in a series of television and radio advertisements in which he describes how tobacco killed the love of his life. Stoddard travels the country in his pickup to deliver his message personally to students.

The Rapides Foundation began airing Stoddard’s advertisements in January as part of its focus on tobacco prevention and control. His message was so well-received that the Foundation decided to bring Stoddard to Central Louisiana.

“Rick Stoddard’s story is powerful, and he tells it in a way that captures the attention of young people,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “During his two-week visit in Central Louisiana, he delivered his message to nearly 8,500 people.”

Stoddard traveled to 22 high schools in nine Central Louisiana parishes: Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn. His presentation was seen and heard by students in grades 6 through 12.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, contributing to heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease. In Central Louisiana, about one in four, or 24.9 percent, of adults use tobacco.

The Foundation began using Stoddard’s advertisements to counter the massive marketing efforts used by the tobacco industry. The industry spends about $250 million each year in Louisiana to addict consumers to its products and to keep them addicted.

Stoddard, 54, lives in Massachusetts but was raised in Pascagoula, Miss., where he met Marie. Marie was diagnosed with lung cancer on Aug. 1, 1999. She died just five months later, on Jan. 8, 2000. They have one child, Justin.

Determined that Marie’s death will not be in vain, Stoddard spends up to 200 days a year on the road to deliver his presentations. So far, he has spoken to more than one million people. Although it is a grueling schedule, Stoddard said he will not stop until the world is free of tobacco.

“I can see the change taking place in how society looks at the tobacco industry,” he said. “The change has been slow coming, but it is happening.”

The Rapides Foundation’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Initiative is part of its Get Healthy Cenla program. For more about this program, please visit www.gethealthycenla.org.

For more information about Stoddard, please visit www.rickstoddard.com.
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