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American Indians / Alaska Natives

Know the Facts

If you are an American Indian or Alaska Native, you likely know someone with health problems from cigarette smoking—possibly a member of your family with a smoker's cough who is struggling to breathe or a friend with lung cancer. Cigarette smoking is more common among American Indians/Alaska Natives than almost any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. Smoking increases the chances of:

  • Losing members of your tribe to smoking-related illnesses
  • Losing elders to smoking-related diseases before they can hand down tribal customs and traditions

Cigarette smoking harms more than the smoker. Smoking cigarettes while you are pregnant increases the risk for pregnancy complications, including having a premature baby or a baby who weighs less than 5½ pounds.

Babies and children who breathe tobacco smoke can have health problems because their lungs don't work well. These health problems can include bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections. You can help protect future generations by keeping children away from cigarette smoke.

For More Information

  • Detailed Statistics Learn about smoking in specific populations and the current rates of cigarette smoking in the United States.

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Real Stories: American Indians / Alaskan Natives Featured in Tips

Learn the real stories of American Indians / Alaskan Natives who are suffering from illness or health conditions as a result of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

 MichaelMeet Michael. Michael, age 57, lives in Alaska and began smoking at age 9. At 44, he was diagnosed with COPD — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — which makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death.

 NathanMeet Nathan. Nathan lived in Idaho. A member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, he was exposed to secondhand smoke at work that caused permanent lung damage and triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job. His illness led to his death on October 17, 2013. He was 54.

Learn more about all Tips participants in our Real Stories section.

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Quitting Help

To get started right now, see our I'm Ready to Quit! area, featuring a Quit Guide and an additional Quitting Resources page.

You can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Quitline coaches can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support.

Additional resources that provide information about free counseling sessions as well as help for tribes include:


Medicare currently covers quit-smoking treatments. The benefit covers two tobacco cessation attempts per year and up to four face-to-face counseling sessions per attempt.

Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act expand private health insurance and Medicaid coverage of proven quit-smoking treatments.

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Nathan,a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, shown wearing his native garb.

Nathan, a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, never smoked cigarettes. He was exposed to secondhand smoke at work that caused permanent lung damage and triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job.

"A doctor was looking at x-rays of my lungs and commented that I had the lungs of a heavy smoker. I told him, ‘I never smoked a day in my life!’"

Nathan's illnesses led to his death at age 54.


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