Tucked away behind a strip mall in the native cigarettes of Kahnawake, Canada, a fenced compound squats at the end of a narrow driveway. Inside, a worker feeds pungent, raw tobacco into a noisy machine that churns out thousands of cigarettes. These native cigarettes are the new lifeblood of this Mohawk reserve — and, outsiders say, a serious threat to public health.

Smoking is a significant problem in many American Indian and Alaska Native (also known as AI/AN) communities. People who are AI/AN are at a higher risk for smoking-related diseases and disabilities than other Americans, including heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pregnancy complications.

But a new generation of tribal leaders wants to reduce the number of Native smokers and combat what they call an epidemic of addiction and illness. They want to do so by reinvigorating respect for the sacred plant and focusing on prevention.

Exploring Native Cigarette Options: Your Guide

To that end, Gina Boudreau, a member of the White Earth Nation in Minnesota, says, “We have to be more specific about what we’re doing.” That would mean going beyond rolling out generic antismoking ads or pushing the old slogan, “Just say no to cigarettes.”

A search of over 1000 Web sites found 52 of them identified as selling native cigarettes. Most were American Indian-owned and 77% were located on tribal land in the states of New York, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Of those, 81% did not require proof of age or include the US surgeon general’s warning about the dangers of smoking.

Native Cigarettes Canada
Phone: +15198579349

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