Non-traditional Tobacco Use/Abuse
- Tobacco, in its purest form is sacred for American Indians.
- Unfortunately, too many of our people have gravitated toward non-traditional tobacco use in cigarette, pipe and cigar abuse.
- It has begun to affect our children and our elders.
- It is the gateway drug for our youth which may lead to long term drug abuse or alcohol abuse.
Although many people smoke because they believe cigarettes calm their nerves, smoking releases epinephrine, a hormone which creates physiological stress in the smoker, rather than relaxation. The use of tobacco is addictive. Most users develop tolerance for nicotine and need greater amounts to produce a desired effect.
Smokers become physically and psychologically dependent and will suffer withdrawal symptoms including:
- changes in body temperature
- heart rate
- muscle tone
- and appetite.
Psychological symptoms include:
- sleep disturbances
- cravings for tobacco that can last days, weeks, months, years or an entire lifetime.
Risks associated with smoking cigarettes:
- Diminished or extinguished sense of smell and taste
- Frequent colds
- Smoker's cough
- Gastric ulcers
- Chronic bronchitis
- Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
- Premature and more abundant face wrinkles
- heart disease-the number one cause of death among American Indians
- Cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, lungs, pancreas, cervix, uterus, and bladder
Cigarette smoking is perhaps the most devastating preventable cause of disease and premature death.
Smoking is particularly dangerous for teens because their bodies are still developing and changing and the 4,000 chemicals (including 200 known poisons) in cigarette smoke can adversely affect this process.
Cigarettes are highly addictive. One-third of young people who are just "experimenting" end up being addicted by the time they are 20.
There are approximately 2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the
United States, representing a 10.4 percent increase since 1990. Among racial and
ethnic groups, the prevalence of current smoking is highest among American
Indians/Alaskan Natives (36.2 percent), followed by African Americans (25.8
percent), whites (25.6 percent), Hispanics (18.3 percent) and Asians/Pacific
Islanders (16.6 percent).
Smoking rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives vary by region and
state. Smoking rates are highest in Alaska (45.1 percent) and the North Plains
(44.2 percent) and lowest in the southwest (17.0 percent). The prevalence of
heavy smoking (25+ cigarettes per day) is also highest in the North Plains (13.5
(Sources: American Lung Association and American Indian Tobacco Education Network
- Tobacco use is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, and stroke--all leading causes of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Compared with whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives smoke fewer cigarettes each day. The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native smokers who reported that they were light smokers (smoking fewer than 15 cigarettes per day) was 49.9 percent, compared with 35.3 percent for whites.
- The rate of smoking among American Indian and Alaska Native women of reproductive age (18-44) in 1994-95 was 44.3 percent, compared with 29.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of African American, 16.4 percent of Hispanic, and 5.7 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander women of reproductive age. Since 1978, the prevalence of smoking by women of reproductive age of all racial/ethnic groups has declined, except American Indian/Alaskan Native women.
- Smoking prevalence among American Indian and Alaskan Native high school senior males from 1990-94 was 41.1 percent; for females, 39.4 percent. In contrast, high school senior smoking prevalence was 33.4 percent for white males and 33.1 percent for white females, 28.5 percent for Hispanic males and 19.2 percent for Hispanic females, 20.6 percent for Asian American and Pacific Islander males and 13.8 percent for Asian American and Pacific Islander females, and 11.6 percent for African American males and 8.6 percent for African American females.
- American Indian and Alaska Native lands are sovereign nations and are not subject to state laws prohibiting the sale and promotion of tobacco products to minors. As a result, American Indian and Alaska Native youth have access to tobacco products at a very young age.
- The tobacco industry targets American Indian/Alaskan Natives by funding cultural events such as powwows and rodeos to build its image and credibility in the community.
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