Native Cigarettes Become Native Smokeless Tobacco

Native Cigarettes Become Native Smokeless Tobacco

A blackmarket tobacco manufacturing business has emerged across the country in recent years, producing cigarettes that are sold on reservations at a myriad of smoke shops or shipped off to distributors who peddle them in non-native communities. It has even prompted some Mohawk leaders to warn the government about the problem as far back as seven years ago, when the contraband tobacco wave was still in its infancy. Click Here

For American Indians like Gina Boudreau, a member of Minnesota’s White Earth Nation, tobacco is sacred. Her ancestors planted the plant as part of their spiritual rituals, but she says modern marketing and advertising tactics have led to a breakdown in traditional respect for the plant among her community. The White Earth Nation is working to change that, to reduce smoking among young people. But to do so, they say, will take more than generic ads slamming the dangers of tobacco or pushy “just say no” campaigns.

Exploring the Tradition: Native Cigarettes and Their Cultural Significance

Instead, they’re embracing a strategy that has been gaining popularity among New York’s eight federally recognized Indian tribes: producing their own brands. The idea is to capitalize on a loophole in state law that exempts tribal-branded cigarettes from the $4.35-a-pack excise tax, one of the highest in the country. But critics see the move as a desperate attempt by tribal councils to regain control of their economies after losing decades of battles with state governments over the sale and distribution of name-brand cigarettes.

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