Quit Smoking Assistance Photo Provided

Nation, others offer assistance to help you quit smoking

By Chris Jennings
September 1, 2022

The most common cause of death among American Indian and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) is heart disease, with cancer following a close second, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both causes of death can be partially attributed to commercial tobacco use.

One of the causes is that a disproportionate amount of AI/AN use commercial tobacco products compared to other ethnic groups in the United States. In 2014, the CDC reported that 26.1% of all AI/AN adults were cigarette smokers, a much higher rate than 19.4% for whites, 18.3% for African Americans, 12.1% for Hispanics and 9.6% for Asians.

For many AI/NA, smoking starts early. AI/AN high schoolers have the highest current cigarette smoking rate of any other race or ethnicity at 16.2%, compared to 5.8% overall. 3.7% of AI/NI middle schoolers currently smoke cigarettes compared to 2.3% overall.

Studies often point to flavored tobacco products or e-cigarettes as a reason youth start and continue smoking. E-cigarettes, vapes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) contain a liquid that is heated into an aerosol the user inhales. ENDS come in many shapes and sizes. They can look like cigarettes, pens, USB devices and other delivery systems. Some are disposable, and some are reusable.

On September 22, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under authority granted by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, prohibited cigarettes from containing any “characterizing flavor,” including candy, fruit, and alcohol flavors. These flavorings in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth.

However, the prohibition exempted menthol and tobacco flavors then and did not apply to non-cigarette tobacco products. In April of 2022, the FDA proposed rules prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to prevent youth from starting to use commercial tobacco products.

According to the CDC, In 2021, 80.2% of high school students and 74.6% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product. That number increases to 85.8% and 79.2%, respectively, for ENDS.

There’s no denying that commercial tobacco usage and ENDS are a problem for Native communities. If you use one of these and want to quit, the Nation is here to help. Tribal members can participate in the Tobacco Cessation Clinic, a 16-week program that provides medicine and counseling to help quit smoking.
“It’s a program where basically, the patient wants to quit smoking or is interested in quitting smoking. We have over-the-counter, non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy. We also have a couple of medications that we can use to help people stop smoking,” said Heidi Hackett with the Choctaw Nation Pharmacy.

During the program, there are weekly phone calls and monthly visits to follow up on how things are going.

According to Hacket, they offer support during the visits.

“If they’re struggling with getting rid of that one last cigarette, we go over different habits that they can teach themselves instead of having a cigarette, ” Hacket said.

Hacket says they can offer help with changing the routine or getting rid of stress.

“We just touch base on those points to see if we can help them implement something different into their daily routines that help them get rid of that habit,” she said.

For more information on how to quit smoking, visit cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking. If you’re interested in participating in the Tobacco Cessation Program, you can talk to your health care provider, who will set up a consult.

The cessation program does require monthly in-person visits during the program, but there are other options for helping to quit smoking if you don’t live near enough to make the trip.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) has collaborated with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to customize a smoke-free text messaging program for AI/AN.

Smokers who are ready to quit can enroll in the free 6-8 week program by texting NATIVE to 47848. The user will receive one to five messages per day and can receive additional quitting support by texting one of SmokefreeTXT’s keywords, such as CRAVE, MOOD, OR SLIP.

In Oklahoma, you can go to okhelpline.com or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to receive free help with quitting smoking, including free nicotine replacement therapy patches or lozenges for those 18 and over. They also have options for those 13 to 17 years old.

The American Lung Association has the Freedom from Smoking program, helping people quit smoking for over 41 years. More information can be found at lung.org/quit-smoking.

Help is available to quit smoking, but you must take the first step to live a longer and healthier life.