This year alone, 6,500 adults in Louisiana will die because of smoking-related diseases or second-hand smoke exposure. Women & Children's Hospital in Lake Charles is taking some dramatic steps to fight this tobacco epidemic with the help of a huge financial grant.
Smoke pours out of the cigarette receptacle just feet away from the doors of the hospital. But some changes are coming on Dec. 31.
"Visitors, patients and employees can see what is coming," said Christine Bergeron, a nurse practitioner at the hospital. "It's not going to hit them by surprise when Dec. 31 gets here."
Women and Children's Hospital has been awarded this year's Tobacco Free Health Care Project Grant - $150,000 to spend on comprehensive programs to reduce the number of smokers in our area.
"To eliminate non-smokers' exposure to second-hand smoke," said program director, Sherry Forest, "to promote tobacco cessation, to prevent youth initiation of tobacco use and to eliminate tobacco-related health disparities."
The money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Southwest Louisiana Health Education Center will be divvied up over 30 months to drop the staggering statistics of nearly one in four Louisiana residents lighting up.
"We are educating teachers, school administrators, kids, we are educating the public in general," said Forest.
While there are smoking receptacles outside of the hospital today, come Dec. 31, they will be moved out and no tobacco will be permitted on the property within 10 feet of any of the hospital grounds.
"By doing this, we hope that we can encourage them to work closer with patients and send out the message that tobacco is deadly," said Bergeron.
The same chemicals in gasoline, ammonia, battery acid and arsenic are used to make cigarettes. One of the goals of this campaign is to bring that to the attention of kids, the targets of candy-like tobacco products.
"They very much resemble each other," said nurse practitioner, Sandra Priest. "They also have actual flavored tobacco products. They make cherry flavored Skoal, chocolate cigars."
The mission of this trio is to get kids to stop smoking before they start and help habitual smokers kick the habit before it cripples their health.
Classes to help hospital employees stop smoking will be offered before the Dec. 31 deadline.