TULALIP, Wash. – The Tulalip Tribes health clinic recently announced the launch of a $334,000 Smoking Cessation effort for tribal members and the surrounding community. Casino revenues and Washington State Department of Health grant funding ($20,400) will support cessation efforts through area schools, health fairs, businesses, Tribal Health Clinic programs, the Tulalip Pharmacy and public service education.
According to the National Tribal Tobacco Prevention Network, 40 percent of adult Native Americans are smokers, spending about $2,000 per year on the habit – the highest rate of tobacco use among every age, ethnic and gender category in the United States. Various studies place the American Indian/Alaska Native youth smoking rate between 23 percent and 50 percent, at least double the national average for persons under 18. Additionally, teens are three times more likely to smoke if parents of siblings smoke.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 28 percent of Native Americans have diabetes. According to the Tulalip Health Clinic, 28 percent of Native American diabetics are also smokers. Native American women are twice as likely (21 percent) to smoke while pregnant, making them more susceptible to miscarriages, low birth weight and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
“The strategy behind this program will be to focus on prevention with our area youth, and cessation for adults,” said Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tulalip Tribes. “Here at Tulalip and throughout Indian country we face an uphill battle in addressing use of tobacco. Some tobacco companies use Native American images and cultural symbols in their advertising, such as warriors, feathers, and regalia. They also slip in words like ‘natural’ in the brand names to build image, credibility and sales within the Native American community.
“On the prevention side, we do not have the same access to health care funding to counter these efforts. Take the Indian Health Service – which is responsible for fulfilling the U.S. treaty obligations of providing healthcare – they only receive between 40 and 50 percent of the funding required to provide minimum health care services. And tribes were excluded from eligibility to receive any funds from the tobacco industry Master Settlement Agreement, leaving us to rely on thinly stretched state funding for tobacco control.”
The smoking cessation campaign objectives will be to reduce smoking in youth, persons with diabetes and pregnant women. Activities include:
- Recruiting and sponsoring 20 non-smoking students in the Teens Against Tobacco Use program.
- Sponsor the popular Choice and Consequences (Organ Ladies) program for eight visits to area schools and other student opportunities.
- Expanding the tribe’s Tobacco Cessation Program in schools, casinos and at the health clinic to better reach tribal members.
- Promoting partnerships with diabetes and pregnant women programs to raise awareness and promote cessation.
- Modernizing the tribe’s Tobacco Cessation Program with classes.
- Outreach through advertising, health education in the media, health fairs, and sponsoring other tobacco cessation activities.
“Our long term goal with launching this Tobacco Cessation campaign is to reduce the burden of diseases related to smoking,” said Nadine Carter, Tobacco Cessation Program coordinator for the Tulalip Health Clinic. “We also intend to strengthen the long term partnerships between health care providers and improve our clinic services to better assist tribal members and in cases like this the larger area community.”