American Indian and Alaska Native People
Cigarette smoking is more common among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people than almost any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.*
- In 2020, more than 1 in 4 (27.1% ) American Indian/Alaska Native adults smokes cigarettes.*
Several factors connect commercial tobacco with higher levels of disease, disability, and death in different population groups. Learn more about health disparities related to commercial tobacco use that affect American Indian and Alaska Native people.
Smoking increases the chances of:
- Losing members from your tribal community to smoking-related illnesses
- Losing elders to smoking-related diseases or exposure to secondhand smoke before they can pass down tribal customs and traditions
If you are a member of an American Indian or Alaska Native community, you likely know someone with health problems from cigarette smoking—possibly a family member with a cough who struggles to breathe or a friend with lung cancer.
Smoking cigarettes while you are pregnant increases the risk for pregnancy complications. These health problems may be a special risk in AI/AN communities, where smoking during pregnancy is more common than among other ethnic groups.
If you smoke during pregnancy, you may give birth to a premature baby or a baby who weighs less than 5½ pounds. Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death) is another danger for babies of moms who smoke during pregnancy.
Babies and children who are exposed to cigarette smoke can continue to have health problems. These health problems can include bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections. You can help protect future generations by keeping children away from cigarette smoke.
Learn what percent of people currently smokes cigarettes, both in the United States overall and among specific population groups.
Meet Michael P. Michael lived in Alaska and began smoking at age 9. At age 44, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death. Michael died at age 64.
Meet Nathan M. Nathan, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, lived in Idaho. Exposure to secondhand smoke at work triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job. Nathan died at age 54 from lung damage caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
Nathan M., a member of the Native American community and veteran of the U.S. military, never smoked cigarettes. But years of working in a casino that allowed smoking damaged his lungs and led to his death in 2013 at age 54.
“I want to make people aware of the damage that exposure to secondhand smoke can do to you.”
- quitSTART appexternal icon—tips, information, and challenges to help you quit
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- Quit Smoking (En Español)
- Smokefree.govexternal icon (En Español)
- Asian Smokers’ Quitlineexternal icon
Learn the real stories of American Indian and Alaska Native adults who are suffering from illness or health conditions as a result of cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.