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Engaging Youth to Address Commercial Tobacco Use

by Yaneidy Lora, Virtual Student Federal Service Intern, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program, Indian Health Service

The Indian Health Service Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program is recognizing the Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action on April 1, which is dedicated to promoting a tobacco-free world and raising awareness about the harmful effects of smoking tobacco. On this day, youth are encouraged to speak up against big tobacco companies who use misleading marketing tactics in an attempt to get people addicted.

In an effort to engage youth, the program provided a half-day Sacred Circle of Tobacco virtual training on March 18 for 32 participants, focusing on strategies for youth to take leadership roles to increase awareness of traditional tobacco. The training also encouraged youth to develop an action plan to reach their peers, schools, and communities to support commercial tobacco-free living.

The IHS and the Public Health Service Nicotine Access Services Workgroup are also developing a toolkit for schools and youth organizations to use to increase awareness. Please visit the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program website to access posters, infographics, information, and contact info to reach out to local coordinators to obtain more information on IHS awareness campaigns and activities.

This year, you can participate in the Take Down Tobacco movement by:

  • Signing a pledge to quit smoking tobacco
  • Talking to your children and loved ones about the dangers of smoking, secondhand smoke, and e-cigarette use, also known as vaping
  • Learning about the variety of vaping products on the market that resemble everyday items, such as USB flash drives, pens, or packages resembling other food products
  • Organizing a fun virtual event with your community
  • Visiting the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids website Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  to gain access to resources, webinars, activity ideas, and more

If you are considering quitting smoking, now may be a good time to start during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving , being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Smoking can also lead to lung disease or lung cancer that may put individuals at more of a risk for a severe case of COVID-19.

Commercial tobacco use has significantly declined among the general U.S. population, but has remain unchanged among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Vaping among Native youth is also higher than all youth across the country. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey Data reported 40.4% of Native high school students and 16.1% of Native middle school students were current users. Commercial tobacco use is one of the behavioral risk factors that contribute to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.

The IHS recently announced SmokefreeTXT for American Indians and Alaska Natives, a new 24/7 mobile messaging tool for those who want to quit commercial tobacco use. While sacred tobacco is important in many Native cultures for prayer, healing, and ceremony, commercial tobacco is harmful to our health. Learn more about how to receive encouragement, advice, and tips to help quit smoking in the IHS Blog.

Related Content:

Tobacco Prevention

Improve Your Health

E-cigarette Use

Yaneidy Lora, Virtual Student Federal Service Intern, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program, Indian Health Service

Yaneidy Lora is a Virtual Student Federal Service intern with the Division of Clinical and Preventive Services, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program. She is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland and received her bachelor's degree in Communications and Public Relations.