Native Cigarettes and the Native American Tobacco Crisis

At the end of a narrow driveway in Kahnawake, Mohawk territory, is a factory that makes what outsiders call contraband cigarettes. The plant is a blue metal box surrounded by a tall green fence, and a few workers inside operate complicated machinery that turns raw tobacco into packets of smoke. For some residents of the reserve, the cigarette business is a lifeline that lifts them off welfare rolls and into decently paying jobs. For others, it raises concerns about a new money that has changed the community’s social dynamics and could undermine traditional values.URL :

While it might seem counterintuitive, many Native tribes are working to decrease the influence of the tobacco industry in a variety of ways. Using strategies like creating smoke-free spaces at pow-wows and in government buildings, providing smoking cessation help in clinics, and teaching classes on growing and harvesting traditional tobacco plants are just some of the ways these tribal communities are taking control of the conversation about commercial tobacco.

Native American Tobacco: Tradition and Connection

But some people in these communities still want to talk about cigarettes, and the cigarette business remains an important part of tribal culture. Tobacco is used for ceremonies, gift giving, and medicine.

Native American smokers have the highest smoking rates of all racial and ethnic groups. And the smoking epidemic has taken its toll on their health, with heart disease and lung cancer among the leading causes of death. The resurgence of the cigarette industry, and the controversy it has stirred up in communities, underscores the need to focus on more holistic approaches to tobacco prevention and treatment.

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