BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - By order of the Louisiana Legislature, the price of cigarettes will go up 50 cents per pack on July 1. It could be an extra motivator to quit, especially considering the state's unique resources available through the
"The first thing I did in the morning was got a cup of coffee. Before I took the first sip of coffee, I lit a cigarette," said Barry Lewis, a local alligator hunter who smoked for nearly five decades.
Lewis knows the struggle of trying to quit. It took him seven tries to finally do it.
"80 percent of smoking is habit," he said. "Once you get rid of the nicotine addiction, it's then getting rid of the habits."
Lewis broke his habits through a class called
offered by Mary Bird Perkins - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. It consists of free group counseling sessions once a week for nine weeks.
Lewis liked having the support, and studies show group therapy, in combination with medication, results in faster, more effective quits.
Lewis tried taking prescription Chantix, but eventually stopped due to unpleasant side-effects. He said what he learned in the group sessions eventually made the difference.
"These little techniques, if you keep doing them, eventually your mind forgets about the cigarette," he explained.
The July tax increase will bring the average price for a pack in Louisiana from $5.44 to $5.94. It may not seem like much, but one-pack-a-day smokers will now pay $178 per month and $2,138 dollars every year.
"We're going to see more people try to quit, and just as important as seeing people try to quit, it has a big effect on the young people not starting,"said Mike Rogers, CEO of the Smoking Cessation Trust.
The trust is a ten-year program resulting from a class-action lawsuit against tobacco companies. The settlement provides millions of dollars in cessation services to Louisiana smokers, including group counseling, nicotine gum, patches and even prescription medication. The funds are available to any Louisiana resident who smoked before September 1, 1988.
The program is scheduled to end in 2022, at which time a judge will decide what happens to any leftover money.
"You're not going to get another program. There is not another program like this in the U.S. You're not going to get another chance to let tobacco pay you to quit," Rogers said.
Access the application by visiting quitwithusla.org. Look for the Register Today button.
Lewis now has 47 years of smoking behind him and a great-grandson as his new addiction.
"I've been tasting food that I never tasted before, smelling things that I hadn't been smelling, and just overall feeling better," he said.
The following partners also provide smoking cessation services through the trust:
- Affinity Health Group (Monroe)
- Baton Rouge Cardiology Center
- Baton Rouge General
- Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans
- Cardiovascular Institute of the South (15 Locations)
- Louisiana Heart Hospital
- LSUHSC (Former Charity Hospital Locations)
- Ochsner Health System(11 Location)
- Rapides Foundation (CMAP – 9 parishes in CENLA)
- St Francis Medical Center (Monroe)
- Slidell Memorial Hospital
- West Jefferson Medical Center
- Gilsbar 360 Alliance PPO Providers (State-wide)