Close this search box.

Exploring Tobacco and E-Cigarette Use among Queer Adults during the Early Days of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pamela Valera 1,* , Madelyn Owens 1, Sarah Malarkey 1 and Nicholas Acuna 2

Abstract: The purpose of this narrative study is to describe the vaping and smoking characteristics of Queer people ages 18–34 before March of 2020 and to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic as impacted those behaviors since March of 2020. In total, 31 participants were screened. Thirteen participants were screened prior to the emergence of COVID-19, and 18 were screened when study protocols transitioned to a remote setting (pre and during). Of the 27 eligible participants, a total of 25 participants completed the study. Most participants (n = 13) self-identified as male, followed by five identified as female, four self-identified as gender non-binary, and three identified as transgender. The most common sexual orientation amongst participants was gay (n = 10), with bisexual being the second-most reported. Approximately 20 Queer participants reported using cigarettes, 14 participants self-reported using electronic devices, and 11 reported using hookah. Twenty participants reported smoking ten or less, and four self-reported using 11–20 cigarettes per day. Approximately, 92% of participants (n = 23) indicate that they are using an e-cigarette and regular cigarettes, and 57% of participants (n = 12) report using one pod or cartridge per day. The three themes that emerged in this study are: (1) Queer people during COVID-19 are experiencing heightened minority stress; (2) Queer people are unfamiliar with smoking cessation; and (3) vaping and smoking are attributed to stress and anxiety. Queer participants are likely to be dual users of cigarette and vaping products. This present study provides increasing evidence that Queer people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety and using cigarette smoking and vaping to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.


More Works

Pamela Valera, Sarah Malarkey, Madelyn Owens, Noah Sinangil, Sanjana Bhakta, and Tammy Chung Online First Publication, April 11, 2024.

Impact Statement
The mixed methods study found a positive association between Mental Health First Aid training and an
increase in correctional officers attitudes regarding referring people who are incarcerated to mental health professionals. Mental Health First Aid training can be helpful for correctional officers to equip them with appropriate skills to identify mental health challenges and substance use in correctional settings. However, correctional officers also report that the systems currently in place to connect people struggling with mental illness must be revamped.


Daina Potter1 and Pamela Valera1

The digestive health of African American/Black male immigrants in the United States has not been previously studied. Much of what is known about gastrointestinal (GI) concerns in this population is based on studies conducted on the overall Black American population. The purpose of this narrative study was to understand how African American/Black male immigrants with GI concerns navigated their GI condition. Fifteen African American/Black male immigrants from various cities in the United States participated in two remote focus groups to discover what motivates them to take control of their illness. Narrative analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. Most men, 47% (n = 7), did not have health insurance, and 67% (n = 10) reported their income was less than US$52,000. The themes identified were: (1) lack of knowledge of GI, (2) denial of initial diagnosis, (3) self-discipline, (4) positive provider interactions, (5) health as a priority, and (6) advice to other African American/Black male immigrants experiencing GI. A strengths-based approach is necessary for describing the health-seeking behaviors among African American/Black male immigrants.


Pamela Valera, Sarah Malarkey, Madelyn Owens, Noah Sinangil, Sanjana Bhakta, and Tammy Chung Online First Publication, April 11, 2024.
Tajrian Amad3,4 · Pamela Valera1,4,5 · Joachim Sackey2,4 · Humberto Baquerizo4,5 · Sarah Malarkey3,4 · Sebastian Acevedo1,4,5

Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout has further exacerbated the health and well-being among Hispanics/Latinos, who maybe overrepresented in essential job industries and are vulnerable to experiencing food insecurity. This study explores whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected food security status differently among Latino/Hispanic essential and non-essential workers in the United States.

Methods The COVID-19 Latino health cross-sectional survey was conducted and administered in person and virtually. Bivariate analyses and chi-square tests were performed to investigate the association between essential worker status and changes in food security status during the COVID-19 pandemic. All reported p-values were two-sided; p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results Of the 869 Hispanic/Latino respondents, 393 (45%) were deemed essential workers, and 476 (55%) were nonessential workers. About 22% of essential workers reported a household income of less than $20,000, whereas 19% of nonessential workers had an income above $100,000. Half (54%) of essential workers reported food insecurity. Over one-third (35%) of essential and 22% of non-essential workers reported increased food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, there was a significant difference in food insecurity status between essential and non-essential Hispanic/Latino workers (p < 0.001).
Conclusion The results underscore the prevalence of food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to create comprehensive food policies that address the lack of availability of adequate food among Hispanic/Latino essential workers who already face pandemic-related challenges.


(Contact: Luis Alzate-Duque; email:

Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In this program, we use an ecological model to help Newark residents complete colorectal screening through fecal immunochemical testing (FIT). We provide education and motivational interviewing to address barriers and concerns about screening.

(Contact: Pamela Valera; email:; Javier Boyas; email:

It has been well established that mental health problems disproportionately burden a significant number of individuals who are incarcerated. The literature suggests that one way of offsetting the deleterious effects of prison life among inmates is to build and use available social support resources before incarceration and during community reintegration. Our studies have investigated different forms of support that could significantly improve mental health outcomes among formerly incarcerated men of color in New York City. To learn more about how to use social support in mitigating recidivism and reducing poor health, please read some of our findings and solutions:

Valera, P., & Boyas, J. (2019). Perceived social ties and mental health among formerly incarcerated men in New York City. Retrieved from:

Valera. P., Bachman, L., Wilson, W., & Reid, A. (2017). “It’s hard to reenter when you’ve been locked out”: Keys to successful offender reintegration. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 56, 412-431.

Valera, P., Chang, Y., Hernández, D., & Cooper, J. (2015). Exploring kinship and social support in women with criminal justice backgrounds. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 54, 278-295.