American Indians / Alaska Natives
Cigarette smoking is more common among American Indians/Alaska Natives than almost any other racial/ethnic group in the United States.*
- More than 1 in 5 (22.6% ) adults with an American Indian/Alaska Native heritage smokes cigarettes.*
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 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. Smoking increases the chances of:
- Losing members of your tribe to smoking-related illnesses
- Losing elders to smoking-related diseases or exposure to secondhand smoke before they can hand down tribal customs and traditions
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 tobacco 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 smoke cigarettes, both in the United States overall and among specific populations.
Learn the real stories of American Indians / Alaskan Natives who are suffering from illness or health conditions as a result of cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Meet Michael P. Michael lived in Alaska and began smoking at age 9. At 44, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death. Michael died in 2020 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. Lung damage led to his death in October 2013 at age 54.
Learn more about all Tips participants in our Real Stories section.
Get free help to quit smoking by calling a quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Quitline coaches can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support.
Additional information for tribes about free counseling sessions, as well as quitting resources, include:
- Freedom From Smokingexternal icon
- Tobacco Dependence Treatment Program from the HealthCare Partnership at the University of Arizonaexternal icon (cessation education for health care professionals)
Quit-smoking treatments may be free or reduced in price through insurance, health plans, or clinics.
State Medicaid programs cover quit-smoking treatments. While the coverage varies by state, all states cover some treatments for at least some Medicaid enrollees.
Medicare currently covers two quit attempts per year and up to four face-to-face counseling sessions per attempt.
*Tobacco Product Use and Cessation Indicators Among Adults – United States, 2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2019.
Nathan M., a Native American 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.”