NEW ORLEANS -- A quarter of people in Louisiana smoke and the state is working hard to change that.
It's the costliest, and deadliest, health problem in Louisiana, but still many people don't know about the free statewide medical programs to help smokers quit.
Ronald Till works out hard to stay in shape. It's important to saving lives as a volunteer fire fighter in Avondale, but something major is holding him back from optimal health.
"My mother and father smoked, so it's probably something I just picked up from them," said Till, 43.
He started smoking at 16. Now, at the urging of his doctor, he is getting help to quit. Till knows few can overcome nicotine addiction without medical intervention.
"I stopped for a year-and-a-half and I can't remember, something happened and I just started smoking again," Till said.
"I have had many patients tell me that they have been on addicted to alcohol, addicted to drugs and other things, and this is the most difficult, trying to quit smoking is the most difficult thing to overcome for them," said Kelly Turlich, an Ochsner Registered Nurse and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist.
Today Ronald started free smoking cessation through The Smoking Cessation Trust. The program uses money that tobacco companies had to pay after losing a law suit that began in the 1990s.
The Smoking Cessation Trust is for anyone in Louisiana who started smoking before September 1, 1988. The program runs through 2022. All group classes, prescription medications, doctor or counselor visits, nicotine gum, patches, inhalers and sprays, even the cinnamon toothpicks that help, are free to those who want to stop smoking.
"Chantix and the patch are probably the two mostly used because they are very successful,” Turlich said. “Group is great because you can relate to other smokers that are trying to quit. It's hard. It's not easy. It's challenging but it's rewarding.”
"Now I'm ready,” Till said. “I'm ready to give it up and start and just move on.”
To find a Smoking Cessation Trust location near you call 504-529-5665 or toll-free at 855-259-6346
For doctors who want to join the program to be reimbursed for helping patients stop smoking, call 1-866-605-6797.