Native Cigarettes Help Native People Quit Smoking


When states and cities raise tobacco prices, they hope that smokers will be less likely to start or continue the habit. But in some communities, cheap tribal cigarettes can complicate those efforts. In 2009, the Seneca, Oneida and Onondaga nations bought more name-brand cigarettes from wholesalers than any other tribe in New York. But after a recent court victory, those orders are drying up. The wholesalers now must pay the state’s tobacco tax up front, and then recoup that cost from their Indian retailers. So Marlboros are disappearing from Indian-owned stores—along with Kools, Camels, Newports and Winstons. They’ll be replaced by native brands that the state says are beyond its reach. Source

Exploring the Rich Tradition of Native Cigarettes

At a factory at the Kahnawake Mohawk reservation, a handful of workers are producing what outsiders call contraband but locals consider their lifeblood. In a small production line, workers feed pungent, spindly tobacco leaves into noisy machines that turn them into the familiar, ash-colored rectangles of the brand known as Native Cigarettes.

Kristine Rhodes, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, works for an organization that helps people quit smoking and adopt healthier lifestyles. She says that native people have a variety of strategies to decrease the influence of commercial tobacco on their reservations and in their communities. These include creating smoke free spaces and pow wows, offering cessation help in clinics, and growing and reclaiming sacred traditional tobacco. “We know that price matters—both for young people who might be thinking about smoking and for people trying to quit,” she says. “If a cigarette is expensive, it’s harder to buy.”

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