ESG Clarity Asia blog Re-Invigorating Native Smokes

Re-Invigorating Native Smokes

In this windswept spot of native smokes and surf on the Oregon coast, the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw (CLUSI) are reigniting their relationship with tobacco. But not just any tobacco, the kind their ancestors smoked for religious and ceremonial purposes before colonization and the fur trade. Native smokes are the same as regular cigarettes, except they’re grown and produced without chemicals or fertilizers and are free of additives such as nicotine, formaldehyde, arsenic and lead.

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The traditional smoking mix known as kinnickinnick also hasn’t changed. But, since the introduction of domesticated commercial trade tobacco in the area by European settlers, the line between sacred and everyday smokes has blurred. This has made it hard for modern-day tribes to stick to their historic smoking practices, as they had to substitute commercial tobacco with cigarettes when their indigenous varieties became unavailable.

While smoking rates have dropped in the United States, Native American communities continue to have some of the highest rates, despite intervention strategies that include creating smoke-free spaces and pow wows, promoting Native-owned cigarette brands, and providing cessation support at tribal health clinics. While these efforts are a start, Boudreau and other CLUSI members say more needs to be done. They believe re-invigorating tobacco customs and rebuilding respect for the plant as sacred would be more effective than rolling out generic anti-smoking messages and pushing “just say no.”

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