Nov. 2, 2009
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
For Lawrence Bryant, it's a personal passion to keep young people from smoking. It stems from seeing the tragic outcome of smoking - on his patients, on children and his loved ones.
Bryant is the principal investigator of the Tobacco Survivorship Network, a project in the Division of Respiratory Therapy at the College of Health and Human Sciences, which is building the resources to impact students at a critical age when peer pressure is at its greatest.
"We want to impact the students by giving them a visual representation of what happens if you smoke," Bryant said. "The presentations are done with people who have voice boxes, tracheostomies, cancer of the larynx and trachea, who are living with these diseases, as well as respiratory student advocates.
"It is very compelling to see someone tell their stories - particularly individuals who are not old, but who are perhaps 21 or 22 years old who have only been smoking for a few years who have cancer. It really brings it home," he said.
The project is working to make middle schools tobacco free, with the help of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, the Georgia Department of Human Resources and the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium.
Additionally, the project works to increase the use of the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line, the state's free phone and Web-based service to help smokers quit. Bryant and his students want to increase the use of the service by 45 percent by 2011.
As a respiratory therapist for 34 years, Bryant has had hands-on experience with smoking, both as a smoker himself and as a man in the trenches who saw the results of second-hand smoke on children in the form of chronic lung disease and asthma. But the experience also touched his beloved father, who smoked for decades and died as a result.
"He smoked Camels for 50 years," Bryant said. "And as a respiratory therapist, I saw my father through the entire process, from beginning to the end."
His respiratory therapy students are just as passionate about stemming smoking as he is.
"A lot of them are interested in this because they walk through the campus on any given day, and are constantly bombarded at entrances with second-hand smoke," Bryant said. "They want to see something done."