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Health Org Launches New Resource To Help American Indians Quit Smoking

Early next year, a Denver-based health organization will launch the very first telephone quit line specifically for American Indians looking to stop smoking tobacco. The service will be available in Wyoming and several other states. 

National Jewish Health in Denver has been operating successful telephone quitlines for more than a decade. But with quit rates flat-lining, the group has decided to target a specific demographic with its American Indian Commercial Tobacco Program.

More than 32 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives smoke cigarettes. That’s higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the country.

Dr. Amy Lukowski of National Jewish Health says focus groups with American Indian communities in Wyoming were crucial to crafting the program. She says unlike its other programs, this one will distinguish between ceremonial and commercial tobacco use.

“We know that tobacco is a sacred part of the American Indian tradition,” says Lukowski. “And so, one of the biggest pieces of this program is really honoring that and really coming from a place of understanding that tobacco is a part of their culture, and also a part of their spirituality.”

All of the operators—or ‘quit coaches’—working for the program will be American Indian. The American Indian community includes a variety of tribes and cultures, but Lukowski says—after hearing from the focus groups—she’s confident this broadly-targeted effort can have an impact.  

“How do we develop a protocol that’s universal—and can that even be done?” says Lukowski. “And the answer we heard back was absolutely. It doesn’t matter what tribe you’re from, as long as you’re part of the community.”

The quit line is still in the process of hiring operators and should be up and running in early 2015. Anyone looking to use the general quit line in their state can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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