Native Cigarettes and Tobacco

Native Cigarettes

Native Cigarettes are a unique alternative to commercial tobacco, which is a proven risk factor for heart disease and lung cancer. They are cultivated without chemicals or additives, and they offer a purer smoking experience for those who prefer a natural, clean-tasting cigarette. Native cigarettes are also a more budget-friendly option, as they are tax-exempt in the Indigenous communities that produce them.

Tobacco use is an issue that’s particularly difficult to tackle in tribal communities, where there’s a long legacy of tobacco companies marketing their products within Indigenous culture (internal company documents have been released showing how they used American Indian images and imagery on their packaging). Smoking rates for those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native are some of the highest across all racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

Innovation and Tradition: How Native Cigarettes Adapt to Modern Times

Boudreau, who works to cut smoking rates on the White Earth Nation in Minnesota, says that to make a lasting impact, policies need to go beyond rolling out generic anti-smoking advertisements or pushing “just say no” messages. She believes that re-establishing respect for traditional tobacco as part of community life—for example, growing it in schools, sharing stories about its sacred significance, and reintroducing the practice of passing a birch-bark basket of smoke among community members at prayer ceremonies—will change cultural norms around smoking and make it less socially acceptable to start.

FNHA’s Tobacco Nation podcast series features a wide variety of Northern First Nations people talking about their relationship with tobacco and how they are working to change the way that it is used in their community. The series includes appearances by some prominent community leaders, including First Nations surgeon Dr. Nadine Caron, UBC’s Lee Brown, FNHA former CEO Joe Gallagher, and FNHA Director of Mental Wellness Patricia Vickers. The three-part series is available online here:

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