Rayburn helping inmates to quit smoking

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rayburn Correctional Center is the first prison in the state to offer smoking cessation classes for Louisiana residents who started smoking on or before Sept. 1, 1988.

Funding for the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust Program comes from a trust as a result of a class action lawsuit in 1986 against tobacco companies. Over $270 million was placed in the trust.

“The court found tobacco companies guilty of defraudng consumers in that they knew smoking was harmful,” trust administrator Dennis Keller said. “The courts ordered tobacco companies X amount of dollars to help Louisiana residents get off tobacco.”

To qualify for the program, Keller said participants must be Louisiana residents and have started smoking on or before Sept. 1, 1988.

“This program is for anyone in Louisiana who smoked,” Keller said. “This is for people who are in prison or those who have never been in prison. This is for people who have or don’t have life insurance.”

Rayburn Correctional Center currently allows inmates to smoke cigarettes in the prison yard. The facility goes completely smoke-free on Jan. 15, 2015. Money from the trust pays for smoking cessation services, including medical services, group counseling classes and nicotine replacement therapy like patches, gum or inhalers. The trust was a result of an agreement between Rayburn and the Acer Group of Slidell.

Wayne Cook is Rayburn Correctional Center’s assistant warden over treatment. He said the initial smoking cessation class proved beneficial. Classes began in July and ran for eight sessions once per week. It included 22 participants.

“We started with a first group of offenders and found it very successful for us,” Cook said. “We will start offering this for employees as well. Subsequent classes will be done by televideo.”

For more information about the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust Program, contact Cook at 985-661-6348 or Keller at 504-312-2951. The smoke free website is www.smokefree.org.

Keller can also be contacted at 504-529-5665 or toll free at 1-855-259-6346.