Native Cigarettes and Tobacco

Many Indigenous communities have a relationship with traditional tobacco. For generations, they have used it for spiritual and healing purposes. However, commercially available cigarettes are a significant contributor to smoking-related diseases in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, including cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. This is why the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication are working to develop tobacco messaging that includes cultural cues.URL :

In the past, the tobacco industry targeted American Indians using images of chiefs and headdresses. These marketing tactics have been criticized for misappropriating Indigenous culture and reinforcing harmful stereotypes. These types of marketing campaigns contributed to the high smoking rates among American Indians.

Sacred Smoke: The Spiritual Aspect of Native Cigarettes

Today, a black-market tobacco manufacturing industry in Kahnawake and other communities produces cigarettes that can be purchased on the Internet for about half the price of legitimate brands in local stores. This has complicated efforts to control cigarette sales on reserves and across the nation.

The cheap tribal cigarettes have helped bolster the economic security of some in Kahnawake. But one Mohawk business leader likens the defense of contraband cigarettes to arguments made by Colombian drug lords in the 1980s. He says that personal enrichment is out of line with the Iroquois tradition of putting the community first.

Cigarette-related diseases remain the leading cause of death for people who are American Indian and Alaska Native, despite declining rates in the general population. Tobacco-related illnesses are also a major driver of economic disparities among American Indian and Alaska Native communities. One way to address this disparity is by reducing cigarette consumption.

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