Unlike the rest of the country, Native communities have a unique relationship with traditional tobacco. The plant is considered a sacred gift and central to culture, spirituality and healing. Unfortunately, many American Indian and Alaska Native communities are still struggling with high rates of cigarette smoking. In fact, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking among all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Go here:https://nativecigarettes.com/
This is largely due to the misappropriation of traditional tobacco by the commercial tobacco industry. For decades, advertising campaigns for brands like Red Man, Old Gold and Kent used images of American Indians wearing headdresses or holding pipes to promote their cigarettes. These images not only misappropriated traditional culture, but also reinforced harmful stereotypes of Native Americans.
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Many tribal communities have adapted their traditional practices to accommodate the growing use of commercial tobacco products. For example, at funerals, ritually grown tobacco placed on the ground is offered to the spirit world as a prayer. When the use of traditional tobacco was prohibited, some tribes simply started passing a birchbark basket of cigarettes around during ceremonies to continue the prayer tradition.
Despite the important role that traditional tobacco plays in many tribal communities, it is not enough to stop the spread of commercial cigarettes. As a result, it’s critical to understand how to communicate about the harms of tobacco and how to promote healthy lifestyles in tribal communities. One of the keys is recognizing that tribal members are more responsive to culturally appropriate messages, rather than generic tobacco communication or messaging about health consequences such as heart disease and lung cancer.