American Indians/Alaska Natives

Smoking among American Indians and Alaska Natives at 32.4 percent is the highest by far among any racial and ethnic group, making it a problem of epidemic proportions in that community.1 

Key Facts About Smoking Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • In 2004, among youths, American Indians and Alaska Natives had the greatest cigarette smoking prevalence (23.1%), followed by non-Hispanic whites (14.9%), Hispanics (9.3%), non-Hispanic blacks (6.5%), and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (4.3%).2
  • Although American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of current smoking, they are less likely to be heavy smokers. The percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives smokers who reported that they were light smokers (smoking fewer than 15 cigarettes per day) was 67.2 percent compared to 46.6 percent among whites in 2008.3
  • In 2005, American Indians and Alaska Natives women had the highest rate of smoking during pregnancy (17.8%) compared to non-Hispanic white (13.9%) and non-Hispanic black (8.5%) women.4
  • As smoking declined among the non-Hispanic white population, tobacco companies targeted American Indians and Alaska Natives communities by funding cultural events such as powwows and rodeos to build its image and credibility in the community.5
  • Tobacco products sold on American Indian and Native Alaskan lands are not subject to state and local taxes, although they may choose to impose their own taxes. As a result, cigarettes and other tobacco products are available to most American Indians and Alaska Natives at much lower prices on reservations compared to elsewhere. Lower prices have been tied to increased smoking rates.
  • Tobacco is also considered a sacred gift among Native Americans and is used during religious ceremonies and as traditional medicine.6

The American Lung Association has more information available on quitting smoking and our programs to help you do so, our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use trends on our website at www.lung.org, or through the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

Sources


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2008. Analysis performed by the American Lung Association Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Racial/Ethnic Differences Among Youths in Cigarette Smoking and Susceptibility to Start Smoking – United States, 2002-2004; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. December 1, 2006; 55(47):1275-7.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Reports. Births: Final Data for 2005. December 5, 2007; 56(6).
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups — African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. 1998.
6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups — African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. 1998.

* Racial and ethnic minority terminology reflects those terms used by the Centers For Disease Control.

February 2010