NEW ORLEANS (CBS) – Every year, 6,600 teens in Louisiana start smoking, and one of every 4 students in high school is a regular smoker. Now doctors in south Louisiana who care for seriously sick smokers are doing something about it.
Doctors are bringing young teen girls to the morgue to see jars of organs, and to a heart lab to see a choked off blood vessel in a woman who smoked. It's part of a class at the Chabert Medical Center in Houma, where a lung doctor and tobacco educator are serious about showing teens how crippling and deadly smoking is.
"What I see every day when I'm counseling patients and caring for patients in the ICU in those latter stages of lung cancer and emphysema is quality of life. So many of them say 'if I would have known.'" said LSU Pulmonologist Andrea Espinoza. "It's just devastating to hear someone say that after smoking 20, 30, 60 years."
During the tour at the hospital, the girls saw how many cigarettes pile up in a year of a pack-a-day smoker, who spends nearly $2,000 a year. They got the sensation of damaged lungs by breathing through a tiny straw.
One of the stops on the tour is the nursery. One of the things they learn is that when a pregnant woman smokes, all the nicotine and chemicals cross through the placenta and get into the developing baby. In fact, for the rest of the child's life all the way into adulthood, its brain and body will be affected.
They learned too about smoking and a teen's biggest fear. It turns out there's a special kind of acne that's associated with smoking and it's harder to treat than normal acne.
One of the girls on the tour said, "Your friends say 'come on Haley, just have a cigarette, you're not cool.' I'm going to try to convince them to not smoke. I'm going to give them some facts about how smoking is bad for you."
Another girl said, "I learned a lot about the organs and how smoking is definitely not good for you, how it can really kill you and give you a bunch of different cancers."