BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was 50 years ago that the US Surgeon General first declared smoking a hazard to the public's health.
"The strongest relationship between cigarette smoking and health was in the field of lung cancer," said then US Surgeon General Luther Terry when he presented his office's report in January of 1964.
That report was the first step towards reducing tobacco use among citizens, and it dominated headlines for months. Now, doctors recognize smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancers and death with $90 billion spent each year on smoking related illnesses.
"Even today we don't understand all of the aspects, all of the physiologic impairments and detriments that smoking does to the body," said pulmonologist Dr. Brad Vincent.
Despite all that, people are still lighting up and falling into a life threatening habit. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to break that habit for good.
"I remember when they were good for you," quipped Robin Alello.
The 73 year old started smoking when he was 15, and smoked most of his life. He says he tried quitting several times with varying success, including for a few years after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, the urge to smoke never left him.
"My attitude at that time was well, damage has been done I'm going to enjoy life and do what I want to do," said Alello.
Then, two months ago Alello enrolled in the Geaux Free smoking cessation class at the Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center after urging from his doctor and family.
The free classes use counseling, medication or a combination of the two to help anyone overcome both the habit of smoking and the addiction to nicotine.
"They also gain those skills on how to avoid smoking and how to cope with daily life without the cigarette," explained tobacco treatment specialist Chrishelle Stipe.
Stipe says the classes are extremely beneficial for anyone attempting to quit smoking because they provide support and help to hold participants accountable.
Alello says that accountability is what made it easy to quit and what gives him faith that, this time, he will kick the habit for good.
"Whatever life brings to me I'm ready to face it as a non smoker," said Alello.
If you are interested in signing up for a class or finding more information, you can call (225) 215-1274 or click here.