Protecting Future Generations from High Health Risks of Commercial Tobacco Use and E-Cigarettes, including associated Risk linked to Coronavirus Disease 19

Protecting Future Generations from High Health Risks of Commercial Tobacco Use and E-Cigarettes, including associated Risk linked to Coronavirus Disease 19

AIHC Pulling Together for Wellness Commercial Tobacco Prevention and Health Promotion Work

Protecting Future Generations from High Health Risks of Commercial Tobacco Use and E-Cigarettes; including associated Risk linked to Coronavirus Disease 19

by Jan Ward Olmstead

Comprehensive program support is needed to develop sustainable, Tribal and community-driven, culturally specific, and trauma-informed commercial tobacco prevention and cessation programs to ensure a continued decrease in American Indian and Alaska Native use of commercial tobacco products including, smoking and vaping rates. Program support for culturally appropriate and trauma-informed prevention of American Indian and Alaska Native youth commercial tobacco use initiation and youth and adult cessation interventions are both critical in eliminating disparities:

  • In Washington State, 19% of AI/AN pregnant women smoked during the third trimester of pregnancy compared to 7% of pregnant women in all populations in the state.
    • Smoking during pregnancy is estimated to account for an estimated 20 to 30% of low-birth-weight babies, up to 14% of preterm deliveries, and 10% infant deaths. 
    • For AI/AN mothers between 25-34, infant mortality is approximately 2 times higher than the rate for the rest of Washington.
    • AI/AN infant mortality rate (9.8 per 1,000) is higher for AI/AN babies than the average across all races.
  • In WA State, AI/AN 10th graders tobacco/vape use is higher than any other group. 
  • In WA State, AI/AN adult smoking rates have increased from 30% in 2010 to 36.6% in 2016.
  • 5 five top leading causes of death are caused by commercial tobacco use.
  • Life expectancy for AI/AN is 8.6 years lower than that of NHW in Washington State.   

According to the American Cancer Society:  


Smoking Commercial Tobacco Shortens Lives and Damages Organs

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the US, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths each year.  On average, people who smoke die about 10 years earlier than people who have never smoked.  Most people know smoking can cause cancer. But it can also cause a number of other diseases and can damage nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes, and bones.


Smoking Commercial Tobacco Increases Risk of Cancer

Smoking causes about 20% of all cancers and about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

About 80% of lung cancers, as well as about 80% of all lung cancer deaths, are due to smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

From <

 Smoking Commercial Tobacco Damages your Lungs

Smoking damages the airways and small air sacs in your lungs. This damage starts soon after someone starts smoking, and lung function continues to worsen as long as the person smokes. Still, it may take years for the problem to become noticeable enough for lung disease to be diagnosed. 

Smoke damage in the lungs can lead to serious long-term lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking can also increase the risk of lung infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and it can worsen some existing lung diseases, such as asthma. 

From <>

Significant Association between Cigarette, E-cigarette and Coronavirus Risk 

Additionally, an association between youth smoking, electronic cigarette use, and COVID-19 suggests the need for screening and education. The findings from a national sample of adolescents and youth adults show that cigarette use only, e-cigarettes only, and dual-use of both are significant underlying risk factors for coronavirus disease 2019.  Health care providers, parents, schools, community-based organizations, and policymakers must help make youth aware of the connection between smoking and vaping and coronavirus disease.  (Gaiha, S.M., Cheng, J, and Halpern-Felsher, B.  Journal of Adolescent Health, July 1, 2020 67 (2020) 519-523) 

AIHC is works is to ensure commercial tobacco prevention and cessation is culturally grounded, tribally driven, and trauma-informed through the use of the Pulling Together for Wellness framework.  Upcoming activities:

  • Tribal and American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and Community Engagement: 4TH Series, Storytelling, Brain Science, and an Indigenized Work.
  • Tribal and American Indian and Alaska Native Youth Strength-based Art and Project Contest
  • Training for Adults:  Tribal Commercial Tobacco products training with Dr. Bonnie Halpen-Felscher from Stanford University, spring date TBD
  • Training for Youth: PTW Youth Leadership Training and Technical Assistance 
  • Monitoring Commercial Tobacco and Vaping linkages to Coronavirus.
  • Partnerships:  AIHC supports Tribes, Urban Indian Health Programs, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities in partnership with Indian Health Services Region 10, American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society, Washington State Department of Health and Statewide Commercial Tobacco Partners.  
  • Updates of activities and resources: and


For more information contact:  Jan Ward Olmstead,