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Priority Population: American Indians

Commercial tobacco use is almost double in our American Indian communities compared to the average statewide rate.

Tribes throughout North America use traditional tobacco for spiritual, ceremonial, and medicinal purposes. Traditional tobacco among the Northern Plains tribes is not the same as commercial cigarettes, chew, or e-cigarettes. South Dakota tribes use ċanśaśa which comes from red willow bark. There is nothing traditional or sacred about addiction to commercial tobacco.

Tobacco Use Prevalence

  • 42.3% of American Indian adults in South Dakota smoke cigarettes. That’s more than 2 times the rate of other adult populations.
  • In 2019, 11.6% of SD American Indian middle school students reported current use of any type of tobacco products, compared to 0.7% of White students.

Risk Factors

Increased daily stressors lead to a higher rate of tobacco use.

  • Low socioeconomic status, high poverty rate, and lower education attainment create stress.
  • The tobacco industry promotes its products as a quick way to relieve tension from stress.

Exposure to tobacco products from an early age increases risk of use.

  • American Indians are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, cars, and businesses on a daily basis from a very early age.  
  • American Indians start using tobacco products at an earlier age than the general population.

Tobacco companies exploit tribal lands.

  • Tobacco companies take advantage of higher rates of poverty on reservations.
  • They use coupons, giveaways, gaming promotions, charitable contributions, and sponsorships to influence tribal communities.
  • A tribe’s sovereign status exempts them from South Dakota’s smoke-free laws.
  • Tobacco companies build alliances with tribal leaders to help improve their corporate image and defeat tobacco control policies.
  • In February 2019, JUUL representatives approached the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in an attempt to sell a cessation program to get smokers to switch from cigarettes to JUUL—essentially to trade one nicotine addiction for another.

It’s more difficult for American Indians to quit.

  • American Indians metabolize nicotine faster than other ethnic groups resulting in a higher level of dependence and more difficulty quitting.
  • Regular exposure to others smoking or using commercial tobacco products is a common reason for failed quit attempts.

South Dakota Services for American Indians

Find Your Power SD

The Find Your Power SD website and Facebook have been developed to help American Indians in South Dakota connect with and inspire one another to quit using commercial tobacco products.

South Dakota QuitLine

South Dakota QuitLine services are free and available to anyone 13 years of age or older. Quit Coaches are trained on the difference between commercial and traditional tobacco and offer a culturally sensitive approach for our American Indian enrollees. The phone coaching program and Kickstart Kit both include a Quit Guide featuring cross-cultural information.