Friday, December 8, 2023



CMAP Offers Free Smoking Cessation Counseling
Kathy Gunn
/ Categories: Press Release

CMAP Offers Free Smoking Cessation Counseling

Counseling, medications provided to smokers who want to quit for good

The Rapides Foundation’s Healthy Behaviors Initiative addresses important health behaviors including tobacco use, overweight/obesity, and substance and alcohol abuse prevention. The work in tobacco prevention and control began in 2008 and consists of multi-faceted approaches designed to decrease tobacco use among adults and prevent young people from ever starting.

In 2014, a new strategy was added when the Foundation’s Cenla Medication Access Program partnered with the Smoking Cessation Trust to offer cessation counseling to eligible tobacco users from the nine parishes served by The Rapides Foundation.

The Smoking Cessation Trust is the result of a court judgment in a 14-year-old class action lawsuit that ordered certain tobacco companies to fund a statewide, 10-year smoking cessation program to benefit all Louisiana residents who began smoking cigarettes before September 1, 1988. The only program of its kind in the United States, the Trust began enrolling members in 2012 with hopes of helping 210,000 Louisianans become smoke-free by 2022.

The partnership between The Rapides Foundation and the Trust began in 2013, when Foundation President and CEO Joe Rosier and Smoking Cessation Trust Management Services CEO Mike Rogers met at the Summit on the 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Tobacco Report in New Orleans. Until then, there were no organizations working for the Trust in the Central Louisiana area. 

Kayla Edwards

Kayla Edwards

Smoking cessation counseling is provided in group sessions.

“Without CMAP we wouldn’t have group counseling available in Central Louisiana at all, and they created that just because we couldn’t supply it any other way,” Rogers said. “The Rapides Foundation stepped up and started a line of service they didn’t normally provide because they wanted to effect the health of people in their part of the state. We’d have a big empty part of the map there in Louisiana without them.” The Trust has 14 partners throughout the state. CMAP continues to be the only partner representing Central Louisiana. 

Rosier said tobacco prevention and control is a major part of the Foundation’s Healthy Behavior Initiative, which emphasizes healthy behaviors as a way to prevent disease and premature death. “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death,” Rosier said. “Our tobacco prevention efforts target school children through national awareness and education campaigns such as Kick Butts Day, and also has a healthcare provider program that encourages doctors to provide informational resources on quitting to their patients who use tobacco. Our partnership with the Smoking Cessation Trust adds one more strategy to our work.”

As a result of the partnership with the Smoking Cessation Trust, more than 300 Central Louisiana residents have been referred to CMAP, where they obtain free cessation counseling plus medicine to help them quit. Studies show that a smoker's chances of quitting for good are higher when receiving personal counseling in addition to cessation medications. For that reason, having a Certified Tobacco Training Specialist at CMAP who counsels individuals in Central Louisiana makes a huge difference, Rogers said.

“The Trust is striving to get people who will interact with the Quitline, interact with their physician, attend group counseling and take the medications. Because if you bundle them all together, the statistics say they’re going to have an easier time to quit,” Rogers said.

The Rapides Foundation’s 2013 Community Health Assessment shows that 22.5 percent of adults in The Rapides Foundation Service Area use tobacco. This is lower than the state’s 25.7 percent smoking rate, but higher than the national average of 14.9 percent. The assessment also shows that a majority of Central Louisiana smokers – 54.9 percent – tried to quit smoking at least once in 2013. The Trust funds two quit attempts each year for its members.

 To bring the Smoking Cessation Program to Central Louisiana, CMAP’s Kayla Edwards attended a five-day intensive training at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine’s ACT Center for Tobacco Treatment, Education and Research. Graduates of the program become Certified Tobacco Training Specialists.

Central Louisiana smokers can apply online at or call CMAP toll-free at 855-767-3027. Once the smoker’s information is submitted, the judge assigned to the Trust reviews the person’s qualifications and, if it is determined they meet the requirements, are added as members of the Trust. The judge reviews applications twice a day, so services can begin quickly, when the smoker is ready to quit.

Edwards said she first meets with the smoker individually to determine a plan of action. After the initial assessment, the smoker attends six group-counseling sessions, where Edwards works with smokers on the various strategies and motivations to help them quit for good.

If the smoker needs medicine to help them quit, Edwards works with their doctors, who will write a prescription for the agreed-upon cessation medication. In addition, Edwards gives the smoker a prescription card provided by the Trust. These cards are used to obtain the medicine for free at major retail pharmacies. “As long as they have the prescription and that card, it is free,” she said.

Smokers who can’t attend counseling sessions in person can attend a CMAP group session over the phone. The Trust also offers a Quitline, which offers personalized coaching services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since the program began, Edwards has seen results, like the woman who kicked a two-pack-a-day habit after her fourth session. “I saw her about five months ago and she told me she was completely smoke-free. She used to smoke two packs a day. She was on one of the medications and had attended our sessions. The program worked for her.”

Most of Edwards’ clients have tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past. “But the thing about smoking is, there are two aspects to it. You have the physical addiction to cigarettes and then you have the emotional addiction, and this program covers both. When you combine medicine with counseling, the success rate is higher,” she said.

Trayce Snow, program officer for the Healthy Behaviors Initiative at The Rapides Foundation, said the Trust partnership complements work already being done by the Foundation. Tobacco users who are not eligible for the Trust services, for example, are referred to the state Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) for counseling. 

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers

In addition, the Foundation’s countermarketing campaign is designed to educate the public about the health consequences of tobacco use and to inform them about the Trust and state Quitline opportunities. These advertisements are airing in January and February on television and the Foundation’s YouTube Channel.

In the meantime, Rogers encourages any Louisiana smoker who started before 1988 to take advantage of the Trust’s free services.

“Smokers were marketed to by the best marketers in the world with an unlimited supply of dollars to convince you to pick up their product and try it. They used all their money to engineer the most addictive product on the planet to guarantee that if you picked it up, you are probably never going to put it down. And they did it all for profit,” Rogers said. “I like to say tobacco sells two products: sickness and death, in that order. So here’s your chance to take Big Tobacco’s money and use it to benefit yourself and stop killing yourself. It’s going to save your life, or at least it’s going to make you healthier.”


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Kathy Gunn, Director of Communications
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