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Grant to Help Native Americans Quit Smoking

By Kelley Weiss

Kansas City, MO – The University of Kansas School of Medicine will use a $1.2 million grant from the American Cancer Society to help Native Americans stop smoking. KCUR's Kelley Weiss reports.

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Native Americans have the highest smoking rates of any ethnic group in the country but Dr. Won Choi of KU says few anti-smoking programs are focusing on this population. Choi, the principal investigator of the grant, says researchers must take a culturally sensitive approach in looking at why so many Native American's are smoking and how to get them to quit the habit. He says tobacco use among Native Americans has a long history.

Won Choi: "No other ethnic group is tobacco that important. They use it for ceremonial, for prayer, for medicinal purposes, spiritual purposes and so forth."

The more than $1 million dollar grant will go towards a three year long anti-smoking program. Native American counselors will incorporate cultural practices to help smokers give up smoking and researchers will give participants various forms of nicotine-replacement therapies. The project will involve 250 Native American smokers and Choi says KU hopes to launch the program by next spring.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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